Valentine's Day Gift Baskets

All great Valentine's Day gift ideas start with the heart! Celebrated on February 14th in the United States, this fun holiday is all about showering loved ones with presents and sharing the joy of life. First observed in the 1400s in Great Britain, Valentine's Day is celebrated worldwide as an expression of love. But the attributes of love include not only expressing the emotion, but living up to its noble character: "Charity [or love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth" (I Corinthians 13:4-8a). Whether it is a gift of precious diamonds, the finest gourmet chocolates, or the rarest, most fragrant flowers, a gift given out of true charity, or love, is the best one of all.

But just the right valentine can be more meaningful and enduring than a fancy card, gourmet chocolates, or even a diamond ring. Instead of the run-of-the-mill V-day present, shoppers can surprise significant others with distinctly different, great Valentine's day gift ideas. Presents don't necessarily have to come in red heart-shaped boxes. Coming up with a unique gift involves thinking outside the heart-shaped box and giving someone you love something you, too, would love to have. A present can be anything to dazzle the eyes, tickle the taste buds, or embellish the body. In other words, great Valentine's Day gift ideas can be anything that looks beautiful, tastes good, or comes in just the right size. But what about prolonging the pleasure by planning an entire scavenger hunt around a sweetheart theme? Purchase several gifts and hide them in unusual places around the house, in a neighborhood park, or at a favorite hangout. Handwritten clues can lead unsuspecting sweethearts to out of the way hiding places until all the gifts have been discovered one at a time. Instead of opening just one present, that special someone will have several hours or an entire day figuring out the clues and finding all the goodies!

Great Valentine's Day gift ideas include going beyond the usual boundaries to make someone else feel special; and February 14th isn't just for lovers. Moms and Dads, grandparents, uncles and aunts all need to know they are tops on the list of favorite people. If Mom has always wanted to take a trip out West to visit an old friend, an airplane ticket would make a fabulous gift. Great Valentine's gift ideas can be something as simple as offering to wash the car for Dad or spending the day with grandpa at a softball game. Giving something extra special to nursing home residents or young hospital patients is another way to spread love and cheer to those who might not otherwise receive. Homebound seniors will appreciate a special visit and a tin of homemade cookies or heart-shaped petit fours. Tiny hospital patients will get a kick out of heart-shaped, red balloons and cuddly stuffed animals. With the hospital staffs permission, secret sweethearts can volunteer to drop in for a face painting session, drawing tiny hearts on little foreheads or decorating plaster casts with stick-on hearts that say, I love you!

Everyone loves Valentines Day gift baskets full of chocolates, but unique baskets can be filled with fun or practical items to suit any taste. Homemakers' baskets can be filled with baking ingredients and hand drawn instructions for a secret family recipe. College kids' Valentines Day gift baskets can be stocked with snack items like gourmet popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, or peanut brittle. Add a few coupons for pizzas, plus a couple of prepaid phone cards for calling home -- a real winner of a Valentine for kids away at school. Dads, granddads, brothers, cousins and uncles will love baskets filled to the brim with favorite or functional things. DVDs and CDs for movie and music buffs, photos of the kids growing up, framed mementos of a family ski trip, or mugs engraved with a favorite portrait all make extra special ingredients for a fabulous sweetheart basket. Couples can enjoy Valentines Day gift baskets full of hoagies, chips and fresh fruit taken along on a hike or one-day junket to the beach. It's a lot less expensive and cozier than dining at an upscale restaurant. End the day watching the stars and sipping hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and tiny heart-shaped mints.

Make kiddy Valentines Day gift baskets last all month by packing them with coloring books, crayons, watercolors, and activity books. Long after February 14th is over, kids can use the basket for carrying around art projects or stashing away treasured collectibles. A special V-day present for teens is a scrapbook filled with photos, cherished mementos, and small trinkets from a prom or sweetheart ball. Teens love keeping and collecting corsages, ribbons, programs and anything to remind them of a special date or event. To make a scrapbook that will bring loving and lasting memories for years to come, simply purchase a binder with removable vinyl sleeves. Using pieces of colorful construction paper, teens can design each scrapbook page to reflect different sweetheart themes. Red cutout hearts can be glued to each sheet and then photos pasted onto each heart. Smaller hearts can be embellished with glitter or wording to describe the photos. Corsages can be pressed flat and glued to construction paper. Ribbons, dance cards, tickets, tiny pieces of a prom gown, or clippings from the school newspaper all make great additions to a teen's Valentines Day scrapbook. A special someone will be amazed at the time, love and effort that went into making Valentines Day one of the sweetest days of the year.

Valentine's Day Greeting Cards

Valentines Day greeting cards are vastly popular and have been around for many years. Love is a sentiment that has been expressed in myriad ways throughout the centuries, especially on the fourteenth of February, with feelings spelled out through bits of poetry decorated with lace and cherubs. The idea behind Valentine greetings have existed since the Middle Ages, when lovers would express their feelings through songs. The art of expressing feelings of sentiment through words came into vogue during the 1400's. The first written valentine can be traced back to 1415 from Charles, Duke of Orleans. After the Battle of Agincourt, Charles was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Throughout the duration of his stay he wrote notes full of romantic notions and thoughts of love to his wife who resided in France. Many of these notes have been preserved through the years and are now considered to be the earliest recorded modern valentines and sixty are on display in the British Museum, a testament to all who lay eyes upon them that written words of love are timeless, having the ability to transcend generations.

The adorning of words of love with paper finery included came into vogue in the 1800's. Many of the first commercially produced Valentines Day greeting cards to come onto the market were attractive yet simplistic in nature. The cards were originally very basic and remained so until the 1840's when people began to add decorative touches such as ribbons, lace and poetry. An interesting fact is that the first 'animated' messages were produced in the 1840's as well. For example, some valentines were interactive in that they had a pull tab or other mechanism. When a person was to pull said tab an adornment on the card would move, such as one of Cupid's arrows towards an unsuspecting heart. The addition of small pictures of hearts, cupids and birds were popular as well. Doves are the birds most commonly depicted on Valentine cards as they are a symbol of fidelity, due to the fact that unlike most birds that mate for a year, doves mate for life.

Developments in the language of and art of love came about in the 1700's, by many ways, including flowers. The 'language of flowers' originated from Persia and spread to Europe. This was a time when flowers took on certain meanings, for example the red rose, which represents romantic love. Flowers are very popular for conveying feelings and are generally given in addition to even to enhance the sentiments expressed by Valentines Day greeting cards. Creative and well thought out words and phrases are another element used in the adornment of valentines, and can be considered the most important. Throughout the centuries people have copied poetry for use in Valentine cards. The figure of cupid is thought to have come about as a result of certain early valentines being religious in nature. Angels would accompany poetic verse or phrases and over the years became to resemble the cherubs that are commonplace. No matter how messages are decorated, all serve to bring joy due to the love they express. As the psalmist says, "let them also that love thy [the Lord's] name be joyful in thee" (Psalm 5:11).

The desire for Valentines Day greeting cards came to America, however, not until the Civil War did Americans traditionalize the act of giving valentines. The passing of time saw to embellishments in valentines. Advancements in the printing business occurred during the Victorian Era. Before, people would mainly hand-deliver greeting cards but the advent of the penny postcard changed all that. Mass productions of such cards became popular as people were able to send greetings for only a penny. 'Penny post' saw to increases in demand for cards and was a pre-cursor to free Valentine's Day ecards. The business for the greeting cards steadily gained in popularity. The first mast produced valentines in America were begun by a woman named Esther Howland. She left a trademark on every card produced. As the years have passed, vintage cards baring Howland's trademark, a crimson letter H, have become collector's items.

Those in the retail business look forward to Valentine's Day, as the holiday is one of the biggest money making days of the year due to the sales of valentines and candy, second only to Christmas. Every February an average of one billion Valentine's are sold, and even more profit is gained by way of flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals and so on. Many people might find the amounts of money spent just to express feelings of love, overwhelming and desire simpler ways of telling a friend of family member that they are thought about and valued. The internet has allowed for major advancements by way of the sending and receiving of free Valentine's Day ecards. Computer savvy individuals can simply sit at a computer, log onto the internet and in a few seconds have access to literally thousands of free Valentine's Day ecards. There is a wide variety of electronic greetings available and most websites offer services free of charge.

An electronic, e-mail based card can be the perfect way for a loved one to express their feelings from far away. The majority of websites that offer such services usually include an option which enables the sender to select the exact date they want the card to arrive. This can allow for peace of mind to those who are afraid of letters, cards or packages becoming lost or misdirected by a post office. Free Valentine's Day ecards arrive through e-mail, which is better for the environment as no paper is used in their production or delivery. Electronic greetings can be as simple as a few personalized lines and graphics, or can be animated. Some of the most popular cards are actually mini animations complete with songs and sound effects. Electronic odes of love can be as endearing as fancy cards decorated with lace and hearts. Truly, the thought is what counts.

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