A Favorite Valentine’s Day Tradition that I Can’t Observe This Year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m on a trip to Chicago with my two daughters, so alas, I’m not able to keep one of my favorite resolutions.

As part of the happiness-boosting experiments I tried while writing The Happiness Project — or was it while writing Happier at Home? — I started the tradition of celebrating holiday breakfasts. For instance, for Valentine’s Day.

I’ve been doing this for several years now.

This resolution works alongside some of my other important family-related resolutions, like Be a treasure house of happy memories and Take time for projects.

Family traditions are an important way to build happy memories and to do fun family projects. Traditions make occasions feel special and exciting. They mark the passage of time in a happy way. They provide a sense of anticipation, security and continuity.

Studies show that family traditions support children’s social development and strengthen family cohesiveness. They provide the connection and predictability that people crave. I know that I enjoy a holiday more when I know exactly what we’re going to do, and when we’re going to do it.

Inspired by a friend, I now decorate for holiday breakfasts for all major and minor holidays.

Usually, for Valentine’s Day breakfast, I put out heart-shaped place-mats, heart-shaped paper plates, scattered some conversation-heart candies on the table and in a heart-shaped bowl, and put some heart-shaped window gels on the windows. My mother sends a little present to each girl, so they had something fun to unwrap. I dye the milk pink.

This is festive, and importantly, it’s easy. I re-use the same decorations every year, so I don’t have to spend money or do errands (except to pick up a little theme candy). I set the table the night before, so it’s not stressful. I have a very precise place in the kitchen where I store my holiday-breakfast decorations, so I don’t have to scramble to find anything. A big happiness boost, without much effort.

But this year, we’re traveling, which is very fun — but I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to do the usual holiday breakfast. That’s the thing about traditions; when we love them, we feel sad when they can’t be observed. (The image above is from a previous holiday breakfast.)

Maybe I’ll spring a heart-themed breakfast on my family at some other point.

Have you started any new traditions for your family?  (Yes, a “new tradition” is an oxymoron, but you know what I mean.)

HappierAtHomePaperbackIf you want more ideas about how to build more happiness at home, check out my book, Happier at Home. What a joy it was to write that book!

  • Judith

    Hi Gretchen. I loved the idea of the seasonal photo gallery so this year I started in a small way and bought three phot frames, red, white and pink and printed out three of my favourite photos of my husband and I. I replaced a wicker plant pot with a red one and the resulting display made me very happy. I think my husband liked it too although he is not one for celebrating Valentine’s day. I plan to increase the collection by framing both a new photo and an old one each year until we have one for every year of our marriage.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a terrific idea!

  • Hollie

    Good Morning, Gretchen! Love what you do for V-day but my takeaway from your post was the part about keeping the items “conveniently” located in your kitchen. I have the tendency of putting everything back in a basement storage room [which is a mess 🙁 ] and then forgetting about stuff or dreading having to search for items. So, I’ll be setting up my own holiday kit and leaving it in a cupboard upstairs – thank you!

    On another note, a birthday tradition for us is… The night before a son’s birthday, my husband and I place/tie balloons for the number of years the child is celebrating in their room and throughout the house. (Our boys are 14 and 11, that’s a lot of balloons in one room.) The non-birthday son also gets a balloon in his room. I’ve often wished I could somehow capture their expressions upon waking, especially when they were toddlers!