Valentine's Day Traditions That Died With The '90s

by Lily Feinn

A lot has changed since my middle school days, but I’m going to go out on a limb and admit that Valentine’s Day still holds a special place in my heart. Even so, though, there are quite a few things we did on Valentine’s Day in the ‘90s that we would never do today — which, of course, is all a part of growing up. Before we hit puberty, Valentine's Day didn't have the same worrisome pressure surrounding it, and while it's impossible to go back, maybe there are a few lessons we can still glean from our younger selves... even if, no matter how much we pretend not to notice when Feb. 14 rolls around, there's still an itty-bitty piece of all of us that enjoys all the red and pink pomp and circumstance, just like we did when we were kids.

Back in the '90s, we didn't fret over how people would interpret our gestures of kindness, or whether they would think the pun on our Looney Tunes Valentine was corny. With allowances as our only source of income, giving your boyfriend or girlfriend a drug store teddy bear that your mom picked up for you was considered a big romantic gesture. But times have changed, and so has Valentine's Day, so let's take a look at the many things we did on cupid's holiday in the '90s that we wouldn't be caught dead doing today.


Giving Out Valentines To Everyone You Know

Back in the '90s, giving out Valentine’s Day cards wasn’t such a big deal — mostly because it was mandatory. If you were going to give a card to one person, you had to give them out to the entire class so nobody would feel left out. Today, it would seem mortifying to give out heart-shaped cardboard cards to the entire office, including (gasp) your boss. You would be worried about how people would interpret the gesture, and whether they would read into the message on the card. In most offices, the most people will do is put out a bowl of holiday-themed candy on their desk for others to enjoy, but what’s really so wrong with doilies and a bit of glitter glue?


Judging Our Valentine's Day Cards Based On Which One Had Your Favorite Cartoon Character

Relationship status had nothing to do with receiving Valentine's cards in the '90s, and most of us walked home on Feb. 14 with backpacks overflowing with at least 30 cards (or more!). They came in a variety of themes, including Ren & Stimpy, Ninja Turtles, Lisa Frank, Doug, Barbie, The Land Before Time, Animaniacs, and Space Jam, and deciding which to keep and which to toss after the attached candy was consumed boiled down to which card had your favorite cartoon on it. These days, every one is a bit more stingy with Valentine's Day cards (thanks, a lot puberty). It seems we're lucky to get even one solitary Valentine's Day card, and most of the time it's probably from our mom. If anyone gives us a Valentine it's pretty special — even if it doesn't have any cartoons characters on the front.


Eating Way Too Many Conversation Hearts

In the simpler days of the ‘90s, Valentine’s Day wasn’t so much about declarations of love as it was about who could amass the biggest stash of heart-shaped candies. With each card attached to a piece of themed candy, Valentine’s Day almost matched the sugar rush of Halloween. If you didn’t have amazing self-restraint, all those Conversation Hearts and chocolate drops could lead to a pretty rough bus ride home. A few years older and not necessarily wiser, we're more likely to get an upset stomach on the Uber ride home from too much chocolate lava cake and bubbly.


Recording A Mixtape For Your Crush

While I’m sure there are probably one or two people out there with ironic plans to make old school mix tapes, most of us probably aren't really willing to put in the time and effort required to recreate this nostalgic piece of outdated tech. The closest we get today is sharing a Spotify playlist, but that isn't really a proper equivalent. In the ‘90s, mix tapes were the height of romance, a way to show your crush how you really felt about them through the magic of song. Hours' or even days' worth of effort went into creating one, from recording and curating the songs to designing the label and cover art. Now that was true love.


Planning A Group Date To Secretly Hang With Your Crush

If it was still considered the norm to hang with a group of friends at the Cheesecake Factory and awkwardly make eyes at your crush across the table, Valentine's Day probably wouldn't have quite such an odious reputation today. Unfortunately, many see it as a day where undue pressure is put on new relationships, and romantic one-on-one time is pretty much enforced. Maybe it would be more fun to have a group party, even if we don't have to rely on our parents to drive us to the mall anymore.


Dressing For The Occasion In Head-To-Toe Red And Pink

In the '90s, our sartorial choices were brighter and bolder for the most part. We could wear a T-shirt with giant hearts on it and pink Doc Martins and feel like we were the coolest person in school. As adults, we've lost that unselfconscious air, and tend to stay away from donning special themed outfits — particularly when we have to go into work. But in my personal opinion, a little festive dress would liven up most work places, so if your office dress code allows it, why not embrace a holiday-inspired outfit this year?


Confessing Your Feelings To Your Crush In The Most Awkward Way Possible

In the playing-it-cool dominated realm of Iiternet dating, many deem it “cheesy” to ask someone out on Valentine’s Day and therefore avoid it at all costs; in middle school, though, we had no such hang-ups. A holiday entirely devoted to love and romance seemed like the perfect time to reveal how we truly felt about our fellow classmates! Whether you chose to call up our crush's landline and leave a super uncomfortable voicemail confessing your love, or went the more subtle rout of getting your friends to ask their friends if they maybe liked you, a few pink hearts were certainly not going to deter you from making a move.


Making out With Your Pillow As "Practice"

Before the internet became a go to place for all sex and romance questions, we had to learn about things the old fashioned way: Watching people kiss on TV and acting out the motions with a pillow or a poster of Justin Timberlake with frosted tips (I don't judge). We had to be ready for the magic moment when our crush went in for a first kiss, and there was no better time to practice than Valentine's Day.


Writing A Note And Leaving It In Someone's Locker

These days we spend way too much time stressing over the wording of a simple text to even consider putting pen to paper on Valentine's Day. The old "Do you Like Me? Check Yes or No" is a bit too blunt for modern romance, though it would probably produce better results than today's classic: "Sup?"


Watching Nothing But Valentine's Day TV Specials All Night Long

Well, maybe we still do that a bit...