Valentine's Day traditions build family closeness

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The marketing behind Valentine’s Day might be focused on celebrating your significant other, but for some in the Augusta area, it’s a holiday filled with traditions for the family.

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Mary Louise Hagler collects chocolates and other fun things to put in her Valentine Fairy bags each year.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Mary Louise Hagler collects chocolates and other fun things to put in her Valentine Fairy bags each year.

Mary Louise Hagler is continuing a tradition that her mother began. When she was a child, there would be an anonymous ring and a gift left by the “Valentine Fairy.”

“My mother would ring the doorbell or, as I got older, a neighbor would. There was that element of surprise,” said Hagler, who continued the tradition when her children, Marianna, 16, and Sam, 15, were small.

Hagler received a box of chocolates from the Valentine Fairy, but she decided to change things for her children. They often receive a festively decorated container such as a plastic bucket with red or purple cut-out hearts and a variety of goodies inside.

“When they were younger, I’d go to the dollar store and buy cheap do-dads such as necklaces, socks and pencils,” she said.

The gifts changed as they got older: Marianna now gets makeup.

Barbara Lewis, of Aiken, looks forward to Valentine’s Day because of a tradition started by her father, Allan Zagrodnik, of Graniteville.

When she was a child, he created a Valentine card for each of his seven children.

“He would spend weeks working on these at the kitchen table or in the garage, and we weren’t allowed to see what he was doing. It was always a big deal,” she said.

What made it even more special was that, despite there being seven children, each Valentine was different. One of her most memorable cards had a horse on it.

Now that all the children are adults, he creates one Valentine with a twist. It carries an encoded riddle and there is a contest, with the winner receiving a gift certificate.

There’s no collusion among siblings to find out the answer and share the prize.

“Oh no, not in my competitive family,” Lewis said.

Some years, the riddle is so difficult, there is no winner. She’s looking forward to seeing what he’s put together this year, she said.

Catherine and Anthony Toomer, of Aiken, also put the emphasis on Valentine’s as a way to build the relationship between the children and their father.

“We started noticing Valentine’s Day was all about romance even in elementary school. It became more and more romanticized, and there is no point encouraging that at school. They are not allowed to have boyfriends,” Catherine Toomer said of daughters, Avah, 14, and Olivia, 11.

Each year, the girls create a special meal for their father. They plan the menu and decorate one for him to look at before the meal. They decorate with flowers and handmade cutout hearts, and he often brings them a gift.

“We try to make holidays about family,” she said.

Food is the centerpiece of all holidays for Ingrid Tutt and her 20-year-old daughter, Tia. In the Tutt household, it’s breakfast with a holiday theme.

“I don’t usually buy the cheesy stuff for the holidays. I do, however, make themed pancakes for my daughter’s breakfast,” Tutt said. “I make heart-shaped, star-shaped, turkey-shaped. You name it, and she’s probably had it made in pancake batter. I always surprise her by adding a sweet or savory spice to the mix so she never gets bored with them.”

This year, her daughter is away at college so she won’t be getting them on the holiday, but on her nearest weekend visit, Tutt said.


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