Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Valentine Package

I got a care package today from my belle-mere.. an envelope of stuff for Valentine's Day --a table cloth, cards, and puzzles. Although the French are amorous, they do not believe in Valentine's Day for children. There is really nothing to buy in the stores for the kids. Nothing. I've looked and looked. About the closest you get are these cookies.

My second year here, I pushed for a Valentine's Day party in my son's English class. I called every mother to ask her to bring something in for the party and to have their child prepare Valentine's Day cards. One of the French mothers informed me that it is not a day celebrated by children, just adults. I have found that to be the general attitude here.

Valentine's Day passes in school here like any other day. There are no Valentine's Day cards to send to your 'sweetheart' in class. There are no boxes of sweet tart candies saying 'You're cute!' to give to classmates. There are no lace heart doilies to use when making a card for your mother. I know. I've looked.

My children have lived here for nearly 5 years. They have no idea what happens on Valentine's Day in the US (I assume giving cards to everyone in class is still done?). But I miss all those things for them. If you're in the 16th, my apartment is the one with hearts on the windows (thanks belle-mere..).

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:24 PM



Oh! That is sad. Every child deserves an afternoon sugar rush in school every now and then. I remember decorating cupcakes on Valentine's Day in elementary school and positively smothering them in icing and sprinkles. . . Yum!

# posted by Janna : 12:23 AM  

When your kids go back to school in the States, they aren't going to know what to do with all of those cards and candies they receive on Valentine's Day.


# posted by Anonymous : 9:12 AM  

Aww...that's disappointing news. I was looking forward to seeing what children did at school for Valentine's Day here in France. Does that mean the teachers don't get any gifts from their students?

# posted by Oz : 9:43 AM  

Oh man, first no (proper) Halloween and now kids are shafted by Valentine's Day? Next thing you'll tell me, there's no 4th of July!!!

(You know I'm kidding, right? :P)

# posted by ViVi : 9:47 AM  

I wonder if they have stuff at The Real McCoy or Thanksgiving.

Well, here's a website for the kid's to enjoy (en francais): http://www.coindespetits.com/stvalentin/stvalentin0.html

# posted by RighteousBiche : 10:26 AM  

I remember being really excited about valentines day when I was little, but toward the end of elementary school, it was really frustrating. you had to worry about getting less things than other people, and those candy hearts with the messages, suddenly you had to be really careful about who got what ones, etc.

Then, it was middle school, when kids could buy you "lollygrams" (write a note on a paper and have it delivered to you during homeroom, attached to a lollypop), but at that point, no one was obligated to send you one, so the whole thing became a lot more stressful.

I dunno, somehow I think kids are saved from a lot of stress and heartache by not doing this here. I'd much rather see them get a real understanding of Halloween.

# posted by kim : 10:38 AM  

Hi Auntie !

Yes, raising American kids in France means doing without Valentine's Day, among other things (smile). It's only recently (10 years or so) that Hallow'een has been celebrated in France, for example. I remember in the early 1980s going from farm to farm and village market to village market in Normandy at the end of October to find a suitably round pumpkin for a Jack O'Lantern. Now, of course, one can find pumpkins everywhere when All Hallows' Eve rolls around.

One thing I found that kids need to know, en passant ... American sports ! My son wasn't up on "baseball": the first time he went to the USA they threw him a glove and said "Play right field, OK ?". He was lost. Glove ? Right field ? (Why is it "right" and not "wrong" ?) How does one hold this "bat" ? Same for US football. When asked if was a "linebacker" or "safety", he was perplexed indeed. (smile)


# posted by L'Amerloque : 10:45 AM  

I'll tell you - I was quite happy to move here over 5 years ago and find all of these "holidays" not full out celebrated here. I did not want my children to be a part of all the extreme commercialism of the holidays like back home in the States. Lo and behold, France is doing a bit more these days and I am not that crazy about it. After all of our time here, my children are none the worse for not having candy hearts or cards on Valentine's Day.

# posted by Pat : 1:22 PM  

J, Welcome to the blog. Yes, I have fond memories of the sweets on Valentine's Day. Cupcakes sound like a good idea to make this year.
Jason, I understand from other Americans that the kids are generally really happy to go to an American school after being here in France... probably for a variety of reasons... but including having a little more fun in school.
Oz, I would say that there is an expectation for teacher gifts twice a year -- December and June -- at my school.
Vivi, And no Thanksgiving!

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 1:38 PM  

RB, Thanks for the website. It's very cute. They might have stuff at one of those American food stores... they are just so expensive and far from me I never go. I guess I could try Le Bon Marche too.
Kim, Yeah. I remember counting Valentine's Day cards too and being disappointed if someone got more. It's true...
L'A, Sports! We've brought a wiffle ball and bat over here, so the kids have a small sense of baseball. They've also been to a game in the US. However, football is still a mystery to my kids... although they know it exists because they play 'football'/soccer here and we tell them it is a different sport in the US.
Pat, Of course, you have a good point. It's just that I fondly remember sharing cards with my classmates and making cards for my parents. Things are a bit crazy with the holiday commercialism in the US, I agree.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 2:00 PM  

Amazingly, my in-laws love to have brunch at Thanksgiving.

What? Eight euros is too much for baking powder?? :-)

The Real McCoy I went once because FIL wanted Philadelphia Cream Cheese. That cheesecake must have cost me 30 euros!

# posted by RighteousBiche : 5:28 PM  

Valentines Day was always one of my favorites in school. Spending all that time writing out cards and making sure the good friends got the good cards and the boy you liked got the extra special card (with candy I might add). While I do believe the US is WAY to commercial, there are little things (like $2 for a box of cards) I don't mind spending my money on. Since my kids are homeschooled, they don't get the same experiences I had. If we want a party, we have to have it on our own.

# posted by BohemianMama : 6:36 PM  

RB, You are good to your FIL. I miss having a good cheesecake. I buy the kids the kiri cheese and they think it tastes enough like cream cheese. They use it on the Lenders bagels we bring back from the US and freeze.
BM, Sounds like you are in the same boat as us then. I've had a Valentine's Day party in the past and would like to have a few friends over again this year. Of course, I love parties, even if they aren't for me.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 6:48 PM  

You should have a mini party at home. You could teach them how to make Valentine mailboxes out of shoe boxes and Valentine hearts out of paper doilies (if they even have them over there). Maybe then they could bring the ideas to their friends and be trendsetters. You never know!

# posted by pismire : 8:19 PM  

You are very welcome - am pleased that the PO worked correctly this time!

# posted by Anonymous : 5:11 AM  

That's really surprised me when I arrived in the US : this way to celebrate Valentine's Day with everybody (even pets).
In France, it's a celebration very sacred for lovers... I mean it's all and just about love. The love. That's it. So not for kids, for pets, or for others family members for what is worth.
It's the day to show your mutual affection as lovers who have a commitment. It's really deep, in fact. And it's in the tradition of romantisme, of french lovers.

Why steal this celebration from lovers ??
In France, kids have other celebrations like, I don't know, like "Chandeleur", "Mardi Gras", now "Halloween" and so on... I'm alaways choked and I see all those cards in Hallmark about Valentine's Day... It's not the true meaning... At least, for frenchs...

# posted by Jérôme : 4:55 PM  

Pismire, I was thinking the same thing! I think I'll invite a few of my kids friends over and work on some craft project.
Jerome, I always appreciate your French perspective. It really helps me to understand where the French are coming from on these issues. I might just add... Chadeleur? Is that really a major holiday? I read an article about it in French class last year, but I have never heard anyone actually celebrate the holiday here. I guess Ground Hogs Day in the US is a poor substitute for you!

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 8:25 AM  

That makes me so sad that your kids are missing on V-Day celebrations :( When you're little it's the best because everyone in class *has* to receive a card. I have some traumatic memories from V-day in middle school that make me wish I had lived in France at the time instead, but *sigh* in elementary school it's just so fun!

# posted by Coquette : 10:34 PM  

Auntie -

We have celebrated "Chandeleur" for over a quarter of a century. Crepes on February 2nd are the _very best_ crepes of the entire year. (smile) It is a major French holiday in French families. We know many, many older families which do make the crepes - especially if there are young kids. It is, however, falling out of favor among the younger families. The lack of gold coins must be contributing to the loss of tradition, too. (smile)


# posted by L'Amerloque : 3:39 PM  

I agree with L'Amerloque. Chandeleur is (was ?) popular among kids especially because of the "crêpes". So good !

More informations :
Chandeleur History (in french, sorry).

# posted by Jérôme : 9:22 PM  

I'd like to point out that in England kids don't celebrate valentine's day either. As a child i was given a chocolate heart by my mum but that was it. No-one gave cards to anyone at school. It's not a french thing, i think it's a european thing not to over-celebrate things like the Americans do.

# posted by Anonymous : 4:29 PM  

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