Valentine's Day? What's that?

"A day of love....?"

"A day when people send valentines to others..... valentines I think are post cards!"

"Its the day you ask someone 'Will you be my valentine?'"


"I don't know what Valentine's Day is......"


"Its a day to tell a girl you 'heart' her!" (as in love her....)

(a heart being the pictorial representation of love for children in school) 

"Isn't that the day Daddy gets flowers for Mummy?"


I was at school and my daughter and her friends were discussing the most relevant topic today.....the Valentine's Day! 

Cute? Well, considering I am talking about five and six-year old's, it is definitely cute... but the fact that children are aware of and talking about Valentine's Day at this young age, is a also a reminder for us parents, that it is time our children have an idea what they are really talking about - what this day really stands for, lest they hear something about it that might not be appropriate for them at this age. 


Five - six is a tricky age, where children are only just beginning to understand that outside of their parents and their homes there is also a whole new world around them. This is also an age, where (for a little more time at least) children are ready to believe what Mummy or Daddy tells them. So this, then, is a good time for us parents to make our children understand something from our perspective. This will help not only shield them from inappropriate versions, but also give them something to build their own understanding on.


Today's children have a lot of exposure to media and a lot of information available to them at their finger tips, making it necessary and important to either monitor or censor what they get their hands on. Add to that the shared knowledge and gossip that is a trademark of this age and the glamour of Valentine's Day; and you have an area you need to tread carefully into. 


With all this on my mind, I asked my daughter if she wanted to know what Valentine's Day was all about, if she wanted to know the story behind it; and obviously, she was all ears!  

Now, I have always thought of February 14th, St. Valentine's Day as a day that is globally celebrated as a day of love, although it is part of a lot of debate in our country. For me, this is a celebration of love that we Indians have adapted from the West. Something like, a cultural give and take. They adopted Yoga, we adopted Valentine's Day....isn't that simple? 


But my daughter is only beginning to understand the world around her. And for children her age, if Mummy says something is true, then it most likely is. So as a responsible, new age mom, I decided to keep the explanation as simple and as close to the truth as possible.    


So here's the legend I shared with my daughter about St. Valentine; which is adapted from one of the many legends about Valentine's day. This story I felt was simple enough for a child to understand and relate to; and something that gave a positive spin to her understanding of the subject. 


'In the third century, during the rule of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, Valentine, a learned man was imprisoned for his beliefs which were against the express wishes of the King. 

Seeing that Valentine was a learned man, the jailer asked his daughter Julia to be brought to Valentine for lessons while he awaited execution. 
Julia was a pretty and smart little girl who was also blind. 
Valentine taught her arithmetic and told her stories from history. He described nature to her and told her about the world. He helped her see the world through his eyes. 
He also told her that it was important to have faith and that faith and love healed everyone, no matter what their misery.
Then one day a miracle happened; and Julia could see! 
She believed that this was because of her faith and Valentine's prayers. 
Legend has it, that just before his execution on February 14th, Valentine wrote a note to Julia, which he signed " - from your Valentine"'

Since then, this day is celebrated as St. Valentine's Day, where people express their love for their loved ones and reaffirm their faith. 


Now, clearly this is an adaptation of the original legend. There are also several other legends surrounding Valentine's Day and there is more than one 'St. Valentine' in whose honour, this day is celebrated. But right now, I feel this version is alright for my five-year old to understand. I also feel that it captures the essence of Valentine's Day and gives a perspective to young minds that is pure, innocent and simple. And I can only hope that this purity, this innocence stays on when tomorrow my daughter enters the grown ups' world.


I know my daughter is going to grow up and hear several other versions of the legend, I also know she will learn about and see around her the various commercial forms this day has taken on; and I am sure she will also be more personally involved in the essence of this day at some point in time in her life. But for now, this adaptation is better than most others and is good enough for my little one. 


So this Valentine's, let's spread the cheer and acquaint our children with the true essence of Valentine's Day - that love and faith can create miracles. Rather than exchanging cards and gifts as a mere tradition, lets plant that tiny seed of faith in their little minds. Who knows, may be this will be a small step towards making their world really full of love and understanding - just the way St. Valentine wished it to be! 


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