Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Traditions

One of my favorite things to find at estate sales, is an old greeting card.  It's even more fun to find a box of old greeting cards someone has saved, because the images evoke a certain time in our history.

Anyone who went to a public elementary school in the mid- 20th century will probably remember the traditions surrounding Valentine's Day.  

In some schools, a few days before February 14th, you brought an empty cardboard box from home (such as a shoe box or an oatmeal tub) and decorated it in class with red, pink and/or white construction paper.  The teacher showed you how to fold a piece of construction paper in half and use your blunt-nosed school scissors to carefully cut half a heart out of the paper.  When you opened the half-heart, it had transformed into a whole heart!  

Then you pasted the hearts you'd cut out (probably using your fingers or a small flat round-edged wooden tongue depressor to apply the school paste) onto your box and wrote your name on it.  

There were no glue sticks back then, and there was no standardized test based on your classroom activity.  You were learning to follow instructions, to work quietly at your own desk, to develop hand/eye coordination, and to problem-solve when you forgot about cutting the heart out along the folded side of the paper and ended up with two half-hearts instead.   

You persevered, and your box was complete.  Then you cleaned up the little paper shards around your desk as best you could, and washed the school paste off your fingers at the classroom sink.  That is, unless you were the proverbial kid who ate school paste, but we won't go into that here -- we need to move on.  We need to get some Valentine's Day cards.

Sometime before the 14th, you also had to make or buy Valentine's Day cards for each of your classmates.  Perhaps you were stuck at home one evening with your scissors and your red construction paper, cutting out dozens of hearts and writing "BE MINE" on the middle of each (writing "BE MY VALENTINE" a couple of dozen times was too labor-intensive).

Or your mom took you to the drug store to buy a package of the appropriate number of school valentines.  These usually came either pre-cut in small flat boxes, or in book form that you could punch out.  

Some of the cards were interactive (although we didn't use that word to describe them).

You usually signed your name on the back of each card, although you also had the option of writing "FROM ???" ("ANONYMOUS" was too labor-intensive) if you didn't want the recipient to know that a) you liked them; or b) your mother told you that you had to give them a card even if you didn't like them -- it was The Right Thing To Do.

Note the cut-and-paste stickers on this page.  You'll need to get out your school paste again, or if you don't have school paste at home, the can of rubber cement or the golden-brown bottle of LePage's mucilage with the weird rubber nozzle.
There was usually a special card you could give to your teacher, who certainly deserved some extra love for all her hard work and especially for her patience.

Then on Valentine's Day at school, you set your decorated box out and your classmates (you hoped) filled it with their own valentines.  (I'm certain that the teachers kept extra anonymous valentines handy, so that everyone would get at least a few.)  Some kids gave a valentine to everyone in the class (probably at their parents' insistence); others would only give cards to the people they really liked.   

Either way, you always gave the cards you liked best to the people you liked best.  And sometimes you saved back a card for yourself because you just couldn't stand to give it away. To You, From You.

I'm keeping this one.

I found these old Valentines at some estate sales over the last couple of years.   Enjoy, and share them with your own Valentine.

I'm keeping this one, too.  

Happy Valentine's Day!

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