*For Younger Children* Share the following story and discuss the questions at the end of the story. (Alma J. Yates, “A Valentine for Valerie”, Friend, Feb. 1988, 2)
“This one’s for Valerie,” I said with a grin, and held up the tiniest valentine in the whole package. It was just one small heart with “Have a heart—Be my valentine,” printed across it.
Mom looked at the valentine and asked, “Who’s Valerie?”
I scooted my chair a little closer to the kitchen table and wrote Valerie’s name on the back of the tiny card. “Oh, she’s a new girl in the class,” I mumbled. “At least, she was new a month ago.”
Mom took the valentine from me and looked at it again. “Why does Valerie get this one?”
I heaved a big sigh. “Mom, she’ll be lucky to get any valentines. I bet I’m the only kid in the whole class who gives her one.”
I reached for the valentine, but Mom held it back. “So if this is going to be her only valentine,” Mom asked, still holding the tiny heart, “why give her this one?”
“Well, after I picked out the cards for my friends and the rest of my class, that was the only one left.”
For a long time Mom didn’t say anything. She just looked down at the small valentine, with her lips pressed together. Finally she asked, “Don’t the kids like Valerie?”
I squirmed a little in my chair. “I didn’t say that they didn’t like her,” I answered. “I just said that nobody would be giving her a valentine. And they won’t.”
“Oh, Mom,” I moaned. “They just won’t. Valerie’s kind of different. Some kids just are.”
“Well,” I mumbled, “she doesn’t ever say anything. Even when Miss Willis talks to her, she just whispers or nods her head. And she’s not very cute. She always wears the same sweater, and most of the time her hair isn’t even combed. Bobby Richards says she has fleas.” Mom glared at me, so I added quickly, “But he’s just joking. She really doesn’t. She eats her lunch alone, and she—”
“So after everyone treats her like that,” Mom cut in, “you’re going to give her your very worst valentine?”
“Well, what’s wrong with that. Like I said, she’ll be lucky to get any.”
“Jared,” Mom sighed, “is that what Sister Hansen teaches you in Primary?”
“Aw, Mom, this is for school, not Primary,” I pointed out, trying to sound like I believed it. But I got a funny twitching inside, and I knew that Valerie’s valentine had a lot to do with Primary.
“Jared, if what you learn in Primary doesn’t help you in school, then what good is Primary? And what about everything that your dad and I have been trying to teach you all these years?”
I stared down at my hands and shrugged my shoulders.
For a long time we just sat there. Then Mom spoke quietly, “Have you wondered what it would be like to go to a new school and not have any friends? All the time you’d be thinking that there wasn’t a person in the whole world who liked you. And then on Valentine Day, when everyone else is expecting to get lots of valentines, you only get the tiny ones that nobody wanted to give to their friends. How would you like to be Valerie?”
“All right,” I mumbled, reaching for one of the nicer valentines in the package, “I was going to give this one to Brad, but I guess I can give it to Valerie if you want me to.”
Mom shook her head. “Don’t do it for me, Jared. Do it for Valerie.”
“All right,” I growled, “I’ll do it for Valerie.” I reached for a pencil so that I could write Valerie’s name on it.
“Wait,” Mom said suddenly. “Let’s give Valerie a special valentine.”
“This is a special valentine!” I protested, holding up the one I’d planned to give to Brad. “It’s the best one I have!”
“But there will be others like it. Let’s give her one that is the very best of all, one that will make her smile for the rest of the day.”
Before I could say another word, Mom headed for the cupboard and began pulling down flour and sugar and salt and other stuff.
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“We are going to make a valentine for Valerie.”
“What do we need all that for?”
“This isn’t going to be just an ordinary valentine.”
At first all I did was watch, but soon my hands were covered with flour and sugar, and Mom and I were having a great time.
Mom and I mixed up a whole glob of dough. Then we rolled it out on the table and shaped it into a giant heart. Mom popped it into the oven, and I began getting out ingredients for the frosting. Then, when the giant heart came from the oven and was cool enough, we set to work, decorating it with white, red, and pink frosting and some jelly beans. We gave the heart a face, and across the face in fat red letters we wrote, “Have a heart” and “Be my very special valentine.”
When we were finished, I licked my lips and grinned. “Let’s eat it now,” I said.
“Don’t you dare!” Mom threatened, shaking her finger at me and trying hard not to laugh.
“But it’s too good to just give away—to anybody!” I exclaimed.
“It’s too good to keep!”
“But, Mom, I can’t give this to Valerie,” I objected. “What will everybody think? They’ll say that she’s my girlfriend.” I could feel my cheeks burning. “Even if I do want to be nice to her, I sure don’t want everybody saying that she’s my girlfriend.”
Mom thought for a minute. “Don’t tell anyone. When no one is looking, you can slip it into her envelope. She’ll know that someone in the class gave it to her. Just knowing that she has a friend, even if she doesn’t know who it is, will make all the difference in the world. And I can promise you that tomorrow Valerie will be the happiest girl in your whole class.”
The next morning, with Valerie’s valentine tucked in my backpack, I headed for school. All morning I kept the valentine hidden in my desk, waiting for a chance to slip the giant cookie into Valerie’s valentine envelope. But I never had a chance. Someone was always around.
Just when I’d given up hope, the lunch bell rang and everyone rushed to the cafeteria. I was alone! Snatching the valentine from inside my desk, I sneaked to the back of the room and slipped it into Valerie’s envelope. It barely fit. There were a few other valentines there, but they were just little ones like the one that I had planned to give her before Mom had talked to me. I was glad that Valerie would have at least one good valentine.
It wasn’t until the middle of the afternoon that Miss Willis let us start our valentine party. We played games and had cookies and punch before Miss Willis went to the back wall and took down each of the valentine envelopes and called us up one at a time to get them. Valerie’s was the second to the last. When Miss Willis took it down, she exclaimed, “Valerie surely has some heavy valentines in her envelope!”
Valerie shuffled shyly to the back of the room and took her envelope from Miss Willis. As soon as she felt how heavy it was, a smile tickled the corners of her lips. Everybody watched Valerie as she returned to her seat and sat down. At first she just left the envelope unopened in front of her. Then Martin Turner shouted, “Come on, Valerie, let’s see what’s inside.”
Valerie’s face turned red, and she ducked her head. She carefully opened the envelope and peeked inside. Then she slowly pulled out the giant valentine cookie that I had wrapped in red tissue paper. Everyone in the whole class was quiet and stared at the mysterious package. As Valerie pulled away the paper, her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.
“How beautiful!” Miss Willis exclaimed. “Who’s it from?”
Valerie searched for a name, but there wasn’t one. Finally she shrugged her shoulders.
“It’s a secret valentine.” Miss Willis smiled. “That’s the very best kind.”
Valerie nodded and smiled. Then suddenly she said, “Thank you, whoever you are. It’s the best valentine in the whole world!” She was absolutely glowing!
After school I ran all the way home. “She loved it!” I shouted as I charged through the front door and raced for the kitchen, where Mom was peeling potatoes. “Everybody loved it. They all said that it was the very best valentine they’d ever seen.”
Mom smiled. “And did she find out who gave it to her?”
I shook my head. “She never guessed, so she she thought we were all her friends. And shared it with the whole class. And she talked, Mom! And after school I saw her walking home with Amy and Sylvia and Tara. It was like magic.”
“And was she the happiest girl in the class?”
“The very happiest!” I grinned.
“And who was the happiest boy?” she teased.
I grinned. “Me, of course.” And I was.
Discuss the following questions:
Who is Valerie?
What Valentine did Jared want to give Valerie?
What did Jared make with his mom?
Did Jared give Valerie a valentine? When did he give it to her?
How did Jared feel?
*For Teenagers or Adults* Share pieces of the history of Valentines Day (listed below: “Will You Be My Valentine?”, New Era, Feb. 1974, 31). Then discuss how the Savior served and loves selflessly and so should we. You may consider sharing a summary of the story about the Valentine for Valerie (listed above).
Looking back on elementary school may bring recollections of struggling with long division, forgetting lunch money, labeling prepositional phrases, and having to sit in the classroom during recess. But it also was a time when October meant pumpkins, November turkeys, December Christmas trees and presents, January fancy calendar drawing, and February valentines. It was during February that every shoe box in the house was carefully examined as a possible candidate for the all-important valentine box. Of course, after elaborate decorating with tinfoil, crepe paper, paper doilies, and dainty, construction-paper hearts, it seemed incomprehensible that the box was ever built for anything but valentines. For 49 cents there were small, thin, paper envelopes and even smaller cards—except an especially large one for the teacher. It became the project of everyone in the class to create that special card that would have dull-scissored edges, an off-center fold, and lopsided hearts, and would declare affection in huge, black-crayon letters—i love you mommy. This was the valentine that was posted on the kitchen bulletin board for weeks afterwards.
The original Valentine was a priest in Rome and had little concern for cupids, hearts, or loving couples. He was executed on February 14 in the year 270 for assisting Christian martyrs. His connection with matters of romantic love is entirely coincidental. When the Romans invaded Britain they substituted the names of Christian saints in pagan celebrations. One of these festivals, Lupercalia, traditionally held on February 15, was renamed in honor of Saint Valentine because of the proximity of the anniversary of his death. The pagan celebration was in anticipation of spring when birds began mating and a young man’s fancy turned to lighter thoughts and love.
The holiday must have been well established by the late 14th century, for Chaucer mentioned in his Canterbury Tales that that day was “when every fowl cometh to choose his make (mate). …” During the next centuries, choosing for oneself a valentine became synonymous with becoming engaged, with humans pairing as did the birds. It also became a popular day for official proposals of marriage. The name came to mean the choosing of a sweetheart, with many romantic references in popular ballads and songs. In Hamlet, Shakespeare has Ophelia sing:
“Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.”
Over the years drawing lots to choose one’s valentine, as well as selection by preference, became a tradition. It was also customary for married persons to receive valentines after drawings. An even older custom provided that one’s valentine was the first person encountered on the morning of February 14. One 1662 diary entry states:
“I did this day purposely shun to be seen at Sir W. Batten’s because I would not have his daughter to be my Valentine, as she was the last year, there being no great friendship between us now, as formerly. This morning, in comes W. Bowyer, who was my wife’s Valentine, she having (at which I made good sport to myself) held her hands all the morning that she might not see the paynters that were at work in gilding my chimney-piece and pictures in my dining room.”
This chance matching often proved embarrassing, so it was often prearranged that one’s “draw” or “first encounter” would be the desired one. In France when girls were jilted by their happenstance valentines, they would burn effigies of those who had abandoned them. This caused the French parliament to outlaw the practice of valentines in 1776.
But some even objected to the use of the word valentine for both sexes. A poem published in 1783 suggested that the word be reserved strictly for males. The author stated it to be anachronistic for a man to address a female as his valentine and recommended that the name Delia be substituted instead.
Verse books were sold for a penny so that even the worst bard could produce delightful cards.
The practice of sending valentines flourished in Britain and America but declined in Europe. English printers of the Victorian era made available to the public matching envelopes and cards, and the uniformed penny post established in 1840 helped to increase the valentine’s popularity. Soon cards were elaborate creations of silk, mirrors, lace, embossed paper, shells, satin, floral scraps, locks of hair, dried ferns, feathers, powdered color glass, and flower petals. They were works of art, with hand-painted clusters of flowers and elegantly hand-printed verses that cost as much as $50. Some were well-done and others a bit extreme. The postal service in Britain finally refused to deliver “Love Office Telegraphs” whose “Office of Origin” was “The Heart” and were postmarked “Loveland,” together with checks and drafts made out by the “Bank of True Love,” which promised to pay “homage and never failing devotion of sincere affection” to the bearer. Both were considered too realistic-looking, according to the postal service.
Today the custom of sending valentines has been kept alive by children, who with their gaily decorated shoe boxes have added to the traditions surrounding the day. Some of them make games of giving cards, delivering them to doors and running away before discovered. Still others tie strings to them and teasingly jerk the cards from behind a bush just one step at a time in front of the curious recipient.
But through the years it was the homemade valentine that most often delighted the giver as well as the receiver. Whether it’s heavy construction paper with lopsided hearts or delicate lace with original verse, the homemade valentine evokes the day’s original spirit of remembering a special person. And it challenges the artist in anyone. Craft, art supply, and stationery stores will help you get started with paper doilies, colored tissue paper, gold-foil lace, and flower cutouts.
Discuss the following questions:
Who is the greatest example of love?
Is Valentine’s Day important? Why?