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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Give from the heart this Valentine’s Day

Bronwyn Worthington The Spokesman-Review

Valentine’s Day is on its way. Within weeks some 1 billion cards will be exchanged, making the holiday second only to Christmas in the greeting card industry. While a few folks actually enjoy hunting for a perfect Valentine, many dread the annual search.

Whether browsing for cards, candy, flowers or jewelry, the eyes begin glazing over. Should we go with what we gave last year or upgrade? As the list of retailers seeking to entice us grows, resentment makes us consider why we celebrate Valentine’s Day in the first place.

Unfortunately, most of us have yet to learn that obligatory buying begins a downward spiral of meaningless routine. We spend more than we can afford on the account that we are buying a gift. Then we wonder why our attempt to win approval leaves us feeling unfulfilled. Just for once, wouldn’t it be nice to express our hearts as opposed to flaunting our wallets?

A glance into history shows how Valentine cards and letters have circulated among European countries for several centuries. Esther Howland of Massachusetts became the first in the U.S. to make the tradition popular. Upon receiving an intricate English Valentine in 1847, she began creating her own cards, eventually developing a large business. In the later part of the 20th century, chocolate and roses became popular gifts for sweethearts to exchange. Now, in 2008, jewelry advertisements pressure us into believing we aren’t spending enough if our gift isn’t measured in carats.

Still, a lesson from our children gives us hope that the midwinter holiday continues to hold some value. Enter into any grade school Valentine’s party and you will observe children excitedly rushing to tear open their cards. Smiles, not without a bit of blushing, will follow as classmates engage in this simple act of giving and receiving. For a moment the students without name-brand clothes, athletic skills, or high WASL scores have a chance to be recognized. Impressing others takes a back seat as children give without any strings attached.

Obviously, we can’t go back to childhood Valentine’s celebrations. As adults we no longer center our celebration among a group but instead seek out that one special sweetheart. While those without a partner might find this trend disturbing – some have termed Feb. 14 “Singles Awareness Day” – many welcome any excuse to celebrate romance.

So have a little fun with your Valentine this year. Make your celebration meaningful by thinking ahead.

Get creative. Show how much you care by tapping into your artistic ability. Use music to create an instrumental song, words to write a poem, or clay to construct a keepsake.

Spend time with your loved one. While cards and gifts often disappear, memories remain. Whether you opt for a bed-and-breakfast getaway or a simple meal together, plan an event that won’t easily be forgotten.

Give beyond yourselves. Decide on a common cause you and your partner want to support. Check out The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance,

public/participants.asp. to see more than 1,000 worthwhile charities.

Hopefully, a little extra planning will help us all settle into a happy Valentine’s Day. Whatever we end up spending on our Valentine, we’ll do well to remember that it’s the thought behind the gift that counts.