How Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the USA



A Valentines Day table decoration used for parties on this big day of celebration

EXPAT LIFE: I don’t know whether my head is just in the clouds too much these days but it was only when I came to the USA that I noticed how big a deal that Valentines’ Day is.

Sure, in Australia we celebrate it quite a bit. Restaurants back home look forward to it as a huge date on their event calendars. Florists, chocolatiers and newsagents also get inundated by enthusiastic lovers, family members and hopefuls, clamoring to buy that special something for their loved ones.

But Australia isn’t alone. Lots of other countries celebrate this day in their own special way including France, the UK, Singapore, Japan, and much of Latin America. One of my children’s class mothers, originally from Peru, told me that her country calls this day ‘Día del Amor y la Amistad’ or the ‘Day of Love and Friendship’. Just the Spanish name alone conjures up romantic images.

Valentine’s Day is special in the Philippines too, apparently. Amongst the many expat stories that float weekly across my computer, there was a sweet headline reading “Expat Filipinos hire Cupids to serenade lovers back home with songs and teddy bears”. What a beautiful gesture!

In the USA, where they seem to know how to celebrate all special occasions well, Valentine’s Day is a big deal. You couldn’t forget it, even if you tried. It’s not the greeting card stands in the big shops, or the paraphernalia that party shops seem to stock that remind you of this celebratory day, although that is pretty mind-boggling in itself. It is the personal decorations on individual houses everywhere you go, that lets you know there is an important event coming soon.


Door decorations are very popular in New Jersey for Valentines Day. Wreaths are often seen like this one: heart shaped and made of red tinsel.

Front doors with red or pink heart shaped garlands, window display lights (like Christmas lights except red or pink) and flags mounted at the front of houses with cute friendship images waving in the wind. Some couples even display their own personal flag with their names proudly emblazoned for all to see.


A typical Valentines Day flag used for decoration by many houses in New Jersey USA



A personalized Valentines Day flag decoration for a New Jersey house



Valentines Day is big in New Jersey. A local party shop chain has an entire wall of decorations and gifts for sale



Lots of Valentines Day balloons for sale in New Jersey USA



Valentines Day is big business for retail stores across the USA. Cards, chocolates and flowers are not the only thing purchased for this celebration here in New Jersey.

At my daughter’s New Jersey elementary class this morning, love was very much in the air. Most of the children dressed up in red or pink, including the boys. They had a wonderful Valentine’s Day breakfast complete with pink bagels, pink cupcakes and themed craft. As in most American schools, the kids here all give valentines cards and receive them from every other child in the class. A valentine given here though, is a sign of friendship, not romance. Even my middle schooler received valentines from his friends, both boys and girls. In an environment where all too many things are considered uncool by children, in case their peers frown upon it, Valentine’s Day opens the door for kids to embrace their friends and peers in an inclusive and positive way.

Without even including this massive exchange of home-made and bought cards that this must entail country-wide, Americans are reported to send over 190 million valentines each year. That is a staggering number, and obviously a significant contributor to the US economy.


Even the bagels are pink for Valentines Day in New Jersey



Pink cupcakes are all the rage on Valentines Day in the USA. each of these cakes has an individual message of love and friendship

For cynical Australians, it would be easy to say that Americans are the victims of their own rampant commercialism. However, I would prefer to think of the US as a country that knows how to celebrate their traditions in style. After all, no matter where you come from on this planet, couldn’t we all do with more love and friendship?

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

2 thoughts on “How Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the USA

  1. Our daughter is in a pre-school, and we received a note with all of the childrens’ names, saying that if you are giving a Valentine, you need to do to all, not selectively. My duaghter ended up with 16 valentines (from a class of 23), a lolly pop usually with a card/note attached. I am sure the party shops trot out these gifts each year (a bit like the Halloween shops that are around for 6 weeks of every year).
    I was surprised at how big halloween was (even though it was punctuated by Sandy, and I believe 2011 was cancelled due to a large dump of snow), maybe 2013 will go off without a hitch. I must say the anticipation for a 3 y.o. to dress up and go “trick or treating” was fun to see.

    • Our elementary schools have done the note thing too and I like that idea as the kids do feel hurt if someone leaves them out. One girl in our class was hurt because she had no writing on her received card when others did, so it’s a sensitive thing. But amazingly every kid in the class had something to hand out, even hand made notes, if not the bought ones. On our first valentine’s day here, I spent all night making individually made and decorated cards for each kid, only to find out that most were shop bought cards with a lollipop stuck on, so that was the last time I did that! The shops are full of little commercial cards (about baseball card size) that are tailor made for this, which makes it easy if you don’t have the time. Most people here are pretty time poor, even the stay-at-home mums (explains the impatient driving I guess), so no doubt that’s why these commercial offerings are so popular.
      And yes Halloween is major big time here. All so different than home though… but really interesting to experience how others live:)

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