So remember how amazed you were at what the Americans get up to for Halloween? (And if you don't, check out my Halloween Watch posts and photos) Well, Valentine's Day is not as big but it has aspirations...
The shops started stocking cards, soft toys, chocolates and sweets etc a few weeks ago. Let me just check my calendar - yep, Valentine's Day here is the same as the rest of the world - February 14th. And, let's see - yep, it's still January ;)
Mind you, they started selling THESE on Boxing Day (that's December 26th):
So anyway - Valentine's Day, ok we have it too in the UK. We too send cards if we're in the 1st throws of love, or teenage crushes, or later as couples (unless like me you were silly enough to get married that weekend, so you get anniversary cards and pressies instead). We too buy red roses last minute in service (gas) stations, or cutesy cuddly toys...but here's the difference:
- like with any reason to party - the USA does this holiday a lot bigger
- they seem to take it a lot more seriously and more crucially, it's not just for the luvvy duvvy - it's almost like another reason to show 'love' for many more people you don't actually 'love love' (am I making any sense here?)
I'll have to pop out soon and take some photos of the houses in my neighbourhood already decorated for the big day (I'm not joking - it's no way as big as Halloween, but the heart wreaths, flags and displays have started going up!)
Here are some of the things you can buy (and they do). Obviously there're plenty of chocolate options:
Then you mustn't forget your limited edition Valentine's Pillow Pet:
Don't forget your love glasses, Valentine's conversation starter cards, snowglobes, love ducks....honestly, I am not joking:
By the way, I'm totally aware there's probably an American ex-pat sitting in Shropshire typing on her blog "you would not believe what the Brits are selling in their supermarkets to celebrate Burn's Night!" (which is next Tuesday in case you haven't bought your haggis, neeps and tatties yet!)
But anyway, the most interesting cultural difference we encountered last year that took us totally by surprise about Valentine's Day is what happens in the elementary schools (infant/junior/primary schools). Melchett mentioned that they allow Valentine's cards in her class...
Now I know some schools in the UK allow cards, but many don't because of over-protecting the children - "we couldn't have some children upset because they didn't get anything, we have to shield them from real life" mentality. Also there's no way our school with its PTA food police would allow any children to bring in chocolates or sweets in for Valentine's Day.
But wow is it different here. Melchett wanted to give a few cards to some of her male friends (not 'boy friends' she's quick to assert) and when I say male, these were 7 year olds. Part of me felt a bit strange about this, not because I think it's wrong, it's just another cultural difference between the UK and the USA - we'd think 7 is too young to be 'in love' and that's the only way we think about Valentine's Day. So she took in a few cards and she left them anonymous, because that's how we do it in the UK.
And then she came home with a sackload of stuff! OK, slight exaggeration, a huge paper envelope of stuff that each child had made in class to transport home their booty:
And there was a little card and some sort of little gift from EVERY SINGLE child in her class and each card said to and from with the children's names.
I was gobsmacked. I'd never seen Melchett bring home ANY chocolate or sweeties from her UK school, ohhh the food police were strong with the force there (shame they didn't spend more time trying to raise standards of teaching, but that's another story).
So this is what the kids do here, or at least at Melchett's school. They buy special Valentine's Day packs, like these:
You name a popular children's character and there's probably a pack of cards to send featuring them. The packs have little cards in them and usually some sort of gift. So you can have the sort of thing you might expect, Disney Princess or Tinkerbell cards that come with stickers or 'candy' (usually similar to love hearts, refreshers, parma violets or here, cherry boiled sweets):
Or Valentine's Day cards with creepy crawly tattoos:
There are 'educational' ones too - with little maps or flash cards in them, even some with packets of flower seeds to send in each card!
But I've got my money on Melchett wanting me to get this Harry Potter set with their accompanying stickers:
Anyway, that's it for a Valentine's Day Watch pt 1. I might wait a little nearer to the day for a pt 2 that will include pics of the appropriately decorated 'front yards'.....oh America, you've go to love your quirky old ways :)
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