5 Family-Friendly Activities to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

family valentine
Image courtesy of Donna Iadipaolo.

Some people dread Valentine’s Day because they think it is about gifting expensive jewelry or a dozen long-stem roses. Others claim that Valentine’s Day is the loneliest day of the year. But Valentine’s Day can be a celebration of different kinds of love, not only of a romantic significant other, but family-love, friendship love, love of nature, love of neighbors, self-care love, and love for just being alive and celebrating all we have. 

In Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” the author explains that there are five main ways to demonstrate love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving modest thoughtful gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Each of the five tips below may also be accompanied by one of Chapman’s demonstrations.

valentine's day
Image courtesy of Donna Iadipaolo.

Make Valentines Cards, Decorate, and Study Shapes

Children love to cut out heart shapes. This is a great way for students to make their own Valentines. Since it is still winter, why not try making heart snowflakes? Here is a YouTube video that demonstrates how to make snowflakes with hearts in them.

If you still have your Christmas tree out, decorate it with hearts. This way, it transforms into a Saint Valentine’s Day Tree. 

Cutting out shapes and decorating the tree are all very tactile, which connects to Chapman’s expression of love through touch. When the family is done making heart shapes and/or decorating the tree, they can express their love with each other through an appropriate, gentle hug as well.

Research History

Collectively, we have an interest in saints throughout history. Even secular literary writers have been fascinated with saints. For instance, Anne Sexton once stated, “Saints have no moderation, nor do poets, just exuberance”. “Four Saints in Three Acts” was a famous American opera composed by Virgil Thomas with a libretto by Gertrude Stein. 

So it would also be an interesting academic exercise to investigate Saint Valentine, the person for whom the American holiday is named. How did this 3rd-century Roman priest and physician become the patron saint of lovers, epileptics, and… beekeepers?

When you make and give a Valentine, there is usually a positive message associated with it, such as “Be Mine” or “Hug Me”. This is connected to Chapman’s words of affirmation. Don’t forget to tell, or even write, those important to you how much you love them. You can also research and include other poignant quotes about love, such as: “Love does not dominate; it cultivates.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

family valentine
Image courtesy of Donna Iadipaolo.

Become a Nature Lover

Everyone knows about making a snowman or snow angel in the winter. But one can also have a good time walking in the snow to trace out a snow heart. Also, enjoy a nature lover’s walk by noticing all the shapes surrounding you. Dried flower stems or evergreen branches take different shapes and movements. Dried berries in the winter with ice surrounding them look like little red hearts glistening in the sun. When enjoying the rays, cup your two hands together in the shape of a heart and let the winter sunshine flow through.  Talking a winter walk with someone you care about or even by yourself, is an expression of Chapman’s quality time.

Share a Romantic Meal as a Family

Many cultures and traditions use food to express love. Eating a meal together as a family is a great way to enjoy many flavors as well as to check-in with each other. There are many studies that state there are emotional and even physical benefits to eating a meal together as a family. While there might be an idealized perception of having a romantic dinner for two with candlelight together on Valentine’s Day, there is no reason not to have the entire household partake. 

Certain restaurants in Ann Arbor are well-known for their romantic flair. The Earl specializes in French/Italian dishes, which have historically been the go-to for many celebrating amour/amore. But any family favorite — or even better, cooking a meal together — can be the best way to celebrate. Even collaborating together on a pizza in the shape of a heart, agreeing upon toppings and styles, can be a joy. 

Making a meal together, setting the table, or even trying to have a pleasant conversation with someone while breaking bread together can be indicative of an act of service and caring for one another. Also, another act of service during a meal (or even a walk) is to come up with a list of love songs to share during the experience.

Yet another Act of Service and showing Love for Thy Neighbor is to make a gift to Food Gatherers. During this time, it is reported that 1 in 7 Americans do not have enough money to put food on the table.

Just Desserts with Local Chocolate

There are lots of local places to treat oneself, family members, and friends to scrumptious chocolate. Try Bon Bob Bon (5 Nickels Arcade) with fun gourmet, unique chocolate flavors, such as “mustachio”, “hazel-what”, or “high tea”. Another wonderful place is Sweet Gem Confections (624 5th Ave) in Ann Arbor. They offer various kinds of chocolate truffles and sweets. J Patrice Chocolate Studio (407 N. 5th Ave) offers artfully crafted bonbons and chocolate confections. Giving chocolate to someone, or a gift to yourself can definitely constitute the perfect gift of love. After all, it would not be Valentine’s Day without what is known scientifically as “Theobroma cacao” — food of the gods.