Orchard School in West Caldwell notes that St. Valentine’s Day provides a great opportunity to show love to friends, family, teachers, etc.  Yet, this holiday, more so than any other, can be confusing for children to understand. 

Valentine’s Day originated thousands of years ago as a festival to honor a man named Valentine. According to legend, the emperor tried to stop soldiers from getting married during the festival, which was in mid-February, but Valentine married them in secret. For this, the emperor put him in jail. Some versions of the story claim that Valentine cut hearts out of parchment paper and gave them to soldiers to remind them that they were loved. Hence, the tradition of giving paper hearts or cards was born.

Which bring us to Cupid, who has become an instantly recognizable symbol of the holiday. Cupid, can be portrayed as a giant bird with wings or as a cherub with a bow and red tipped arrows.  Like St. Valentine, there is  an ancient story to explain Cupid’s role in the holiday. Long ago, there were two sisters, Venus and Psyche, but everyone loved Psyche and thought she was the more beautiful. So Venus asked Cupid, who could make people fall in love by shooting them with his arrows, if he could help make someone fall in love with her. But Cupid shot himself accidentally with one of his arrows and fell in love with Psyche. Today, when people fall in love, some say that Cupid has shot them with his arrows.

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Which brings us to how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in today’s times. There are cards, gifts and chocolate galore – and generally associated with romantic love. This does not have to always be the case.

According to Erin Moss, director of Orchard School, “We make Valentine’s Day an all-inclusive holiday. Everyone gives and receives cards and all take part in the festivities. We encourage kids to hand out cards, we paint pictures, and make special baked treats! It’s just another fun time to acknowledge friendship and appreciation for one another.”

Last, it's never too early to help children express love and friendship in many different ways. This is the perfect time to show them how rewarding it is to give gifts of kindness, time, compassion, respect, and thoughtfulness to all the people they love --- not just on holidays but throughout the year. It’s a lesson that will stay with them long after the candy and paper valentines are gone.