Valentine's Week: The Evolution of Valentine's Day, From Preschool to College

With each passing February, particularly the ones where I’m single, I find myself subconsciously cataloging all my Valentine’s Days from the years prior. I can somehow remember exactly who my valentine was or wasn’t (it was usually my parents), what I did and the gifts I gave. For some reason, each year’s Valentine’s Day can pretty well sum up a phase of my life. As the day approaches this year, I’ve realized that my experiences with this holiday are pretty similar to other girls I know, so I’ve decided to reach back into my subconscious and share some of my most distinct Valentine’s Days through the years. Hopefully these cringy, but mostly cute, memories will sound a bit familiar!

  1. 1. My Mom and Dad are My Valentines

    I’m sure many of you are thinking the same thing I am while writing this one out: my Mom is still my Valentine. It hit different in 2004 though, when the family would exchange home-made cards and Russel Stovers chocolate hearts in the morning. I would turn the kitchen table into a valentine factory, making finger-print ladybugs and doilie hearts for my grandparents. This was probably the most wholesome era of Valentine’s Day. 

    be mine
  2. 2. Elementary School Valentines Day Party

    The cardboard mailboxes that we made the day before. The cartoon Valentines with heart-shaped suckers on the back. THE cookies with the pink frosting and heart sprinkles. They don’t have a name, but I know we all know the ones. Every elementary school holiday party brings back the most vivid memories that I didn’t even know I had. While there was always the minor crisis of your mom making you buy the cheaper candy to pass out or getting one less card than your friend, the holographic puppy valentines made up for it!

    Valentine's Sweetheart Candies
  3. 3. The Middle School Boyfriend

    “Wanna hug after school tomorrow?” What’s funny looking back on middle school is that everything seemed like life and death at the time. I remember being panicked about what to get my valentine and putting my hair in 7 braids the night before so it would be crimped when I went to school. This was also right around the birth of Instagram, so everyone would post what their valentines gave them that year like we didn’t already see them carrying it home on the bus after school. I definitely peaked opening up my locker and finding a teddy bear inside. What a time to be alive.

    White smartphone with hearts
  4. 4. The Birth of Galentine’s Day

    Yes, the iconic Galentine’s Day episode of Parks and Rec came out in 2010 (Season 2 Episode 16 in case anyone is inspired to re-watch), which puts it more in the time-frame of middle school. However, I didn't fully appreciate the holiday until early high school. There was, and still is, truly nothing better than a classic Galentine’s Day sleepover with frozen pizza and cheesy rom-coms! This phase of alternative Valentine’s Day celebrations holds some of my most formative girl power moments and has since become almost a bigger deal than Valentine’s Day—as it should be.

    Riends Pizza College Party Food
  5. 5. The Valentine’s Days I Selectively Forget

    I feel like not much needs to be said for Valentine’s Day in high school. Maybe this was just a thing at my school, but the obnoxiously decorated lockers with the enormous stuffed animals and balloons kind of spoiled the holiday. Although, high school did host some of my first “romantic” Valentine’s days; so I’m sure if I reach back far enough in the memories I have selectively forgotten, there were some cute moments. These Valentine’s Days come back to haunt us a little bit thanks to the Snapchat memories that catalog every single moment, both cringy and cute, with the high school boyfriends.

    rose bouquet, red paper hearts, and key wrapped in ribbon scattered on a gray surface
  6. 6. “So, Do You Have a Boyfriend Yet?”

    I think Valentine’s Day in college can be summed up pretty well by some common lines from our families. “It’s so much easier to date in college than after you graduate.” “Met any nice boys recently?” No, mom, you are still my valentine. I feel like Valentine’s Day in college is much more low key; especially since we all have a little more space to celebrate it or not. In my case, being single and for some reason having every midterm fall in the same week as the holiday, Valentine’s Day this year is just going to be a celebration with the girls after finishing exams. We’ll call that self-love; and in fact, I encourage everybody—single or not—to appreciate not only the people you love, but yourself this Valentine’s Day. Treat yourself!

    Treat yo self gif

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