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Are candy, cards and gifts a must for Valentine’s Day?

How does one express their love and devotion to their significant other? It’s a popular topic this time of year with Thursday, Feb. 14, (St. Valentine’s Day) right around the corner.

For many folks, Valentine’s Day is synonymous with greeting cards, tasty chocolates or other sweet treats, and flowers or other gifts serving as a token of one’s undying love and affection for another individual.

One of my good friends once told me he believed Valentine’s Day was a holiday created by greeting card companies and florist shops to guilt people into purchasing cards and flowers. Historically, the holiday involved handmade tokens of affection dating back to the Middle Ages, but I think he may have had a point.

Why do we need to have just one day during the year to express our love and devotion to our significant other? Shouldn’t we do this every day?

I have taken a fair bit of grief at work for my approach to Valentine’s Day over the years. I no longer buy a mushy, gushy card for my wife, nor does she get one for me. Does this mean we love each other any less? Of course not.

Instead, we have a mutual understanding that neither of us wastes money buying greeting cards for Valentine’s Day, or any holiday for that matter. With the average cost of a greeting card swirling around the $5 range, I think that’s a smart decision.

Instead, we use that money and put it toward something we actually like to do, like go out to eat or perhaps go to a movie.

Does this agreement take off the pressure off finding just the right words in an overwhelming sea of cards? You bet. Back when we both were young and annually purchased cards for one another, the search for the perfect card never materialized. I could spend hours standing at a rack, reading one cheesy poem after another.

Every so often I would find a decent card, but then as second nature, I would immediately turn it over to see how much it cost. If it was too expensive, back on the shelf it would go. It’s no different if someone gives me a card. When I read one I have to fight the urge of turning it over to see how much money they spent on it. I think that it’s a fair bet that many people do the same thing.

I can fondly recall a time when I was in elementary school when we would decorate Valentine Bags out of paper lunch bags and classmates would place one of those cutesy, store bought themed Valentines in. I don’t know if kids today still do that or not, but based on the variety of “Star Wars,” and “Hello Kitty” type boxes available in stores, I am guessing they do.

Once, a reader of our newspaper suggested that I should surprise my wife with a card, stating for many individuals cards can be put together into a scrapbook to look back upon years later. Knowing my wife as well as I do, I knew this is something she would never entertain. My wife is not much of a saver, while I’m the one who tries to keep practically everything. When I take the recycling down to the basement, I am always shocked to see what we are tossing out.

When the kids were little, there would be school projects and pieces of artwork or coloring pages, and every time I found myself thinking, “Gee, we should keep this.”  But once each child’s “memory box” filled with items in a relatively short amount of time, I knew my wife was right. We couldn’t save it all, but I will probably still try.

Joseph Cyr is the senior reporter for the Houlton Pioneer Times, a division of the Bangor Daily News. People can reach Joseph at

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