Valentine's Day is definitely the time of year for people to express their admiration for those that they love. Even though the true meaning of the holiday is to profess your love for others and to show how much you care about them, it seems many still get caught up in the giving and receiving of gifts.
There are many basic gifts people give on Valentine's Day, such as chocolates and flowers, and it seems as though Western New York teens, who are generally short of money in these hard economic times, are sticking to those commonplace gifts. However, it also seems as though homemade gifts are entering the spotlight as well this February.
Renata Rowland of City Honors gives candy to her friends. On occasion, this eighth-grader will give a small gift to someone special, sometimes even to her parents. She considers the perfect gift a really nice card, some flowers and something she can do together with a particular person, such as going to a movie. When shopping for Valentine's Day gifts, Renata said she likes the shops on Elmwood Avenue, but also recommends other stores such as Target, where, she says, teens can find great products that aren't too expensive. Renata said she likes the dollar section at Target.
"I do, though, like receiving homemade gifts because it lets me know that the person is thinking of me," Renata said.
Jane Rose, a freshman at Nardin Academy, said, "I think the perfect gift for anyone, giving or receiving, would have to have a lot of thought."
She said a gift on Valentine's Day should show how much a person knows about the person receiving the gift. "When I receive a gift with a lot of thought, it always means the most to me," she said.
Jane believes that for teenagers it can be hard to buy something over the top and expensive. She agrees that Target is a good place to buy small gifts.
Will Deuschle, a freshman at Canisius High School, says he recommends chocolates for loved ones on Valentine's Day, but he personally enjoys sponge candy from Watson's Chocolates, with several locations throughout Western New York.
"The best thing to get for others is chocolate because everyone loves it, so you cannot go wrong," said Will. "If you are looking for something less expensive but equally appreciated, you can always make a card or craft for someone because it really shows that you care."
Millie Hurley, who attends Sacred Heart Academy, generally does not exchange gifts on Valentine's Day. However, she says teenagers looking for gifts to give should keep it simple, such as chocolates, flowers, teddy bears and even a nicely written poem. However, she did add that she believes homemade gifts are great because they are thoughtful.
Robert Sawyer, a freshman at Canisius, reminisces about his times in elementary school at Nardin Academy and points out that gossip and hearsay took Valentine's Day hostage back then.
"One would receive gifts from grandparents and other members of the family rather than go through the pressure and anxiety themselves of buying a gift for someone special," Robert said.
He believes a funny card is a great gift for a family member on Valentine's Day.
"For friends, probably just wishing them a happy Valentine's Day would suffice because in the case of gossiping teens, one must never give off the wrong impression," he said.
He also said the ideal gift for a loved one or someone special depends on that person's likes, and the gift should show that you care for that person and that you are classy. He also added that the perfect gift is a necklace since they come in a variety of colors and designs and they vary in price to easily fit any budget.
In addition, Robert noted that online shopping is the best.
"There is no need to drag your parents out shopping with you, and it's easier to find your price range online," he said.
Although he admits that exchanging homemade gifts may be some people's preference and it is inexpensive, he believes they're more appropriate for younger kids.
Andrea Kraft, a freshman at Nardin Academy, only usually buys Valentine's Day gifts for people who have talked about wanting a specific item for a long time. She likes to try small shops and boutiques because they offer unique gifts that are both special and original.
"Even though these presents can get a bit expensive, it's nice to know that the gifts you are giving people are ones that they will be excited to get and will treasure," Andrea said.
Some of her favorite shops are Everything Elmwood on Elmwood Avenue and Alexandria on Main Street in Williamsville. Andrea also shops at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade store on Main Street in Williamsville.
"When you are looking for a meaningful gift for someone, money often becomes an obstacle, and being a teenager makes it even harder," she added.
Danial Khan, a sophomore at Clarence High School, usually buys candy or items like stuffed animals for his closest friends. For a girlfriend, he said he would most likely get jewelry or take her out somewhere. He said he considers the "perfect gift" something the other person will cherish and not necessarily an expensive item.
"The gift should be something from the heart," Danial said. "I would much rather receive something that someone put a lot of thought into that means something to me than to have someone just buy me something." But when Danial does buy gifts, he goes to the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga or Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence.
"There's a lot of different stores in both of these malls so you have more choices," he said.
For teens short on cash, Danial suggests going to Quality Consignments on Main Street in Williamsville. "They have fantastic prices and lots of cool things, including jewelry, that would make great Valentine's Day gifts," he said.
Danial added that homemade gifts, such as handcrafted cards or drawings, are great because they are inexpensive and more meaningful.
Tom Fox, a junior at Canisius High School, buys candy, usually chocolate, for friends and loved ones on Valentine's Day because, he says, they are always safe bets.
"[Canisius] sends a card and chocolate to the local private girls schools so I usually send cards and chocolate to my friends that way," Tom said.
For his girlfriend, he usually tries to find something of sentimental value. Also, Tom believes the "perfect gift" is always hard to find because it is different for everyone.
"The perfect gift should be something that isn't too expensive yet can give the receiver a smile," he said.
But the universal "perfect gift" is chocolate, says Tom, because it makes everyone happy.
In addition to Fowler's Chocolates and other shops on Elmwood, Tom suggests Build-A-Bear Workshop.
"It may sound weird, but they have great gifts that won't be forgotten," he said.
Tom also thinks homemade gifts make people feel much more special.
"I personally love homemade gifts because they show that the person who gave it to you actually put some thought into it and wanted to give you something different," said Tom.
It seems the overall consensus is that stores on Elmwood or less expensive stores such as Target are the way to go for teens. Also, chocolate, although a traditional gift, is still popular among teenagers. And it appears most teens agree that homemade gifts, such as cards and drawings, are more personal and sometimes more appreciated.
Michael Khan is a freshman at Canisius High School.