Valentine’s Day was not always celebrated with red heart valentines, a box of chocolate and the single red rose. Commercialization is largely responsible for the discarding of traditional valentine activities in favor of these few universal (and now trite) symbols. This article provides instructions for unusual Valentine crafts and activities steeped in the holiday’s rich history and traditions around the world.
St. Valentine’s Song
Hundreds of years ago, children in England dressed up in adult clothing and went door to door singing verses for Valentine’s Day.
To recreate this tradition, let boys make stovepipe hats to wear from black card stock while girls attach tissue paper and ribbons to a cut down oatmeal container with a glue gun to style a fashionable hat. Once adorned in their fancy headwear, send the children classroom to classroom or door to door to recite love poetry or sing romantic songs.
Wooden Love Spoons
In Wales, lovers exchanged wooden love spoons with key and keyhole designs on them. For a fun wooden spoon activity, buy inexpensive flat-handled wooden spoons and let kids paint key and keyhole designs on them with nontoxic, permanent paint.
A love knot has no beginning and no end and has long been associated with Valentine’s Day. They come in various shapes and levels of intricacy. Have children draw a love knot design on card stock and glue ribbon over the design. Another alternative is to have children look at a picture of a love knot as a model and weave love knots from braided straw or yarn.
Love Bird Theme Variations
Birds have long been associated with Valentine’s Day and may even be the oldest symbol for the occasion. Roman pagans celebrated a holiday called Lupercalia on February 14. They believed that birds chose their mates for this upcoming mating season at this time. Doves in particular became associated with Valentine’s Day, representing loyalty and love.
For a Valentine’s Day project, let kids learn about doves (or other birds) and then make one using Styrofoam balls, construction paper, feathers and pipe cleaner. For legs, use thin lengths of cut drinking straws set into clay feet.
Alternatively, make a bird feeder from pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed to attract “love birds.”
Another alternative is to borrow from the Polish paper-cutting art Wycinanki. Make a back-to-back bird design from a Wycinanki pattern or draw your own lovebird pattern freehand. Cut the birds from colorful paper and paste them on card stock to use as window or wall decorations.
In Japan, people celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving co-workers chocolate. Using chocolate molds and chocomelt from a craft store, make individual chocolates as valentines. Wrap each one in colored plastic wrap and tie with a pretty ribbon.
Victorian Puzzle Purse
The Victorian puzzle purse was an origami-style paper purse with verse written inside. To read the verse, the purse had to be unfolded slowly so the words could be read in the correct order. These instructions for making a puzzle purse will let modern kids experience the Victorian tradition.
Traditional Valentine’s Day Cards
Make a handmade Victorian style card using folded card stock, scraps of fabric, ribbon, lace and feathers. Victorian Valentine Day cards were originally handmade and were often quite elaborate. They featured flowers associated with love, not just red roses, but also lilies, lilacs, pansies and lilies of the valley. The flowers were made from scraps of fabric and ribbon.
Handmade cards also featured lace to represent lace handkerchiefs. Kids today might be appalled to learn that women carried and actually used lace trimmed handkerchiefs in the days before paper tissues; it was customary for men to pick them up and return them to a woman if dropped. Thus, if a woman wanted a particular man’s attention, she might “accidentally” drop her handkerchief in his presence, giving them an opportunity to interact in a society where such contacts were otherwise forbidden.
Feathers were also popular on Victorian cards, representing birds.