In just a few days, February 14th will turn on our calendars once again.  In many parts of the world, this means it’s time to think about celebrating Valentine’s Day.

I realize there are quite a few people staunchly opposed to this “Hallmark holiday.”  It seems to have been created exclusively by retailers looking to profit from our mid-winter blues by enticing us to spend, spend, spend.

Once I become a mother, I realized that Valentine’s Day didn’t have to be revolve around bouquets of roses and teddy bears holding hearts.  Cardboard cut-out valentine cards are often quickly forgotten, but with a little creativity and thoughtfulness, this holiday can be made into a celebration that our families will find memorable.

Here are eight ways to make Valentine’s Day more meaningful for your family.

Celebrate as a family

Our culture tells us that Valentine’s Day is meant for romantic love, and certainly it is a nice day to take time to express your affection for that special someone.  Our children, however, aren’t interested in that aspect of this holiday, and this is the perfect time to instill in them the long-lasting strength of love within the family.

1. Fill a jar of sweet words.

Repurpose a jar that once held a sweet jam into a jar that holds sweet words for the family. You could have a theme for your jar – for example, “50 Reasons Why I Love Being Your Mama” or “20 Things Daddy Does That Make Me Smile.”  These little love notes can be handwritten or printed out from the computer.  Decorate the jar with tissue paper, magazine clippings, old calendar pages, and some decoupage.

Although this gift is presented on Valentine’s Day, it offers little words of affirmation for as long as the recipient wants to hold on to it!

Photo by Sean McGrath

2. Craft a box of memories.

Upcycle an old shoebox into a box of favorite family memories. Encourage family members to write these memories down and contribute other sorts of memorabilia as well.  Children from preschool age on up can contribute the memories that mean the most to them, and they never tire of hearing stories from when they were babies and toddlers.

Make plans to spend time together on Valentine’s Day going through the box and discussing some of the best times you have shared as a family. Find more inspiration for upcycling at repurposeful and at etsy trashion blog.

3. Create a coupon book.

Although some adults might find the idea of a coupon book to be a little bit trite, kids often see it as a fun and valuable way to enjoy some favorite activities. Parents can present coupon books to kids and vice versa, or everyone in the family could draw names and create a custom coupon book for the family member they selected.

Of course, children will always look forward to the candy-eating festivities that normally accompany Valentine’s Day, but how often is a heart-shaped lollipop really memorable?  Memories are guaranteed when a child redeems a coupon for “one day spent with Dad at the ball park.”

4. Write an emotions book.

Photo by evelynishire

All of this talk about love makes an excellent jumping off point for talking about all kinds of feelings. Parents of younger children could print out My Heart . . . A Book About Feelings for each family member.  Filling in the pages offers valuable talk time as you get to know each other a little better by exploring feelings.

5. Enjoy a scrapbook day.

Start a new family tradition centered around photographs from the previous year.  It doesn’t matter if your family’s picture archives are as simple as traditional, plastic-sleeved photo albums or as elaborate as professional-quality scrapbooks; what’s important is taking time to stay up-to-date on your preserving family memories.  What better day than Valentine’s Day to look back on the ways your family loved each other in the previous year?

Celebrate in your community

Celebrating love within the family meets a tremendous need for each of us.  And with our own love-tanks filled, we may be inspired to move beyond the walls of our home to bless our communities.

6. Plant a seed.

Photo by dsb nola

A few years ago, a eco-minded friend of mine shared the idea of replacing candy and flowers with seed packets. We all love to receive blooming bouquets, but there is something special about giving a gift that invites participation from the recipient.

For my daughter’s first Valentine’s Day party at school, she will be giving little envelopes containing seeds of her favorite flowers – sunflowers.  We were delighted when our sunflowers bloomed last summer, and we hope the families in our community who receive these seeds will enjoy the simple rewards of an amazing display of nature’s beauty.

7. Tend to others.

Visit a home for the elderly or a hospital wing on Valentine’s Day.  Take homemade Valentines with you, or bring along the supplies to make Valentines with the people you are visiting.  So often, the very presence of others is more of a gift than a glittery piece of cardboard, so don’t worry too much about what you have made – just focus on connecting with others.

8. Express gratitude.

There are so many people in our communities who quietly do their jobs so that our lives are a little easier.  Valentine’s Day is a great day to take homemade cookies to civil servants, librarians, police officers, fire men, members of the clergy, and others who don’t often receive the recognition the deserve.

Let’s show our children that Valentine’s Day can be about expressing gratitude, not all about what they have received.

In what unique and meaningful ways does your family celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you have some time-honored traditions for this holiday you can share?