Country Kitchen: Valentine Treats and Traditions

Country Kitchen: Valentine Treats and Traditions

By Mary Emma Allen

A special occasion throughout the years, Valentine's Day takes on special meaning for children and adults. They exchange cards and happy wishes, prepare special treats often in the shape of hearts, and give gifts to those who hold importance in their lives.

In pagan times, Valentine's Day was the occasion for young men to select their brides. According to medieval beliefs, birds, too, chose their mates on this day.

Another idea alleged that the first man a young girl saw on February 14 would become her valentine or sweetheart throughout the coming year.

Love Tokens

Sweethearts exchanged love tokens, often anonymously, in the years before Valentine cards became popular. Items such as jewelry, hand-carved tokens, gloves, and flowers were hidden secretively but where the loved one hopefully would find them.

If the gift was hand carved, symbols such as stars, hearts, or wheels had special universal meanings. Gifts still are given to loved ones today, often in the form of heart-shaped necklaces and charms.

Valentine Boxes

Decorative boxes go back to ancient times and are not traditions started fairly recently solely for children. Centuries ago, a Valentine box was a public event.

Young women of the village put their names within it. Then the young men each drew one. The lady whose name a fellow pulled from the box became his Valentine for that day. Sometimes the woman remained his Valentine longer, possibly for life.

Many of these Valentine's Day customs have survived throughout the centuries. Adults give gifts and cards. Children celebrate with parties in schools, card exchanges, and sweet treats.

Family Traditions

This special day, when I was growing up, became a fun time in our family. Even though we had a party at school and gave each other cards, often handmade ones, we enjoyed a special family supper meal at home.

Several days before the festive occasion we'd decorate a box for the cards we made for one another. Mother baked a heart shaped cake, or layer cake, then coated it with pink icing. We often placed red cinnamon hearts upon this. Sometimes she sprinkled the top with coconut.

Sometimes we also made cookies cut out in the shape of hearts. Then we covered these with pink icing and candy hearts.

Father bought Mother a heart shaped box of chocolates that we children enjoyed as much or more than she. Mother also might purchase candy hearts for us.the small ones with words or phrases on them.

These simple treats form memories that create family traditions throughout the years.

Valentine Treats

Make heart shaped cakes and cookies; deck them with pink icing; highlight with cinnamon hearts, silver decorettes, swirls of white icing and red flowers. Children enjoy using their imaginations and creating these treats for parties and family meals.

Make a CHERRY CHEESE CAKE as a Valentine Day's treat. Bake a graham cracker pie crust according to recipe directions.

Beat 16-oz. softened cream cheese, ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 egg until creamy. Pour into crust. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Let cool.

Pour one can cherry pie filling on top of cooled cheese cake. Add whipped topping by spoon around the edge. Keep refrigerated until served.

Article (C) 2005 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 40 years. She and her family compiled a cookbook to preserve their food heritage. She teaches workshops to show others how to do this, along with scrapbooking their family recipes. Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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