Handmade Valentines: Connecting & Expanding a Community Tradition
For the past seven years, Hilltown Families has organized an intergenerational Handmade Valentine Swap. Spearheaded by Hilltown Families founder, Sienna Wildfield, this community tradition has grown from an intimate group of families to an extensive roster of participants living across western Massachusetts, from Williamstown to Monson.
This year, 1,550 handmade valentines are being prepared for swapping through the mail by families, individuals, and even youth groups, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
For the month of February, in the Hawks-Hayden Room Gallery at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA, over 100 handmade Valentines sent to Hilltown Families by swap participants over the years will be on display in an exhibit, Handmade Valentines: Connecting & Expanding a Community Tradition. New handmade Valentines received this year as part of the swap will be added to the display throughout the month.
These handmade tokens of friendship and kindness push back against the commercialization of Valentine’s Day while connecting and expanding an age-old tradition. The act of creating handmade Valentines supports creative-free play while receiving them generates excitement to make community connections and eliminates loneliness. Having them on display at the Meekins Library chronicles the growth of what has become a delightful intergenerational tradition in western Massachusetts.
❥ Did you know that the history of the commercial Valentine originated here in western Massachusetts in the late 1800’s? Esther Howland founded the New England Valentine Company and valentines from Howland and other makers have been carefully archived at Mount Holyoke College in Hadley, MA.
Pairing a visit to the display, Handmade Valentines: Connecting & Expanding a Community Tradition, and the discovery of valentines made by Howland and her company with the comparison to the current day commercialization of Valentine’s Day can offer value-based lessons in consumerism, the importance of traditions and the value of community connections through creativity.
❥ Missed our swap this year? Join us next year! Sign up for our weekly eNewsletter and discover community opportunities happening all around western Massachusetts every Thursday!