Not Just for Valentine's Day

February 19, 2010
By Katie Packard

Ahhhh, February. A time when thoughts naturally turn to love or at least to the need to buy tokens of that love and hand them out on the 14th. The Internet is full of sites selling cards, diamonds and everything in between, but it also offers more substantial materials. Anyone looking to learn about the history of, unique takes on or international customs celebrating the holiday need look no further than their favorite browser. For all those who are separated from their loved ones because of military deployment or other reasons, the Web also offers ways to stay connected now and all year long. And those who want to send gifts to deployed service members--without paying shipping--can find that too.

History Channel Valentine's Day
The History Channel's Valentine's Day site takes a look at the history of this candy- and card-laden day. Visitors can watch videos about St. Valentine, the first Valentine's card, how chocolate is made and even the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Users also can access a collection of love quotes and information about romantic figures throughout history. Great romances, love letters from President Harry Truman to his wife, a movie guide and fun facts about the holidays are posted as well. For a little more fun, visitors can play Valentine's Day games by selecting the appropriate links.

St. Valentine's Day
This site features many common St. Valentine's Days offerings such as ideas for crafts, cards and gifts, but it also presents more offbeat and educational items with an international flair. Using links, visitors can view pages that teach how to say "I Love You" in different languages or learn about traditions associated with the holiday. The site explains Valentine's Day symbols that can be found through links on the left-hand side of the page or in a nearby box that holds a list with pictures of the symbols as well as names linking to their meaning and history. The Web site also includes information about the holiday during the Middle Ages and present day. A box near the bottom of the homepage takes visitors through legends, celebrations and customs in 12 countries.

Skype is not associated with Valentine's Day directly, but it does offer separated loved ones a means for hearing and even seeing each other for free. Already in common use among troops deployed in the Middle East and their families, Skype enables people to make video and voice calls as well as send instant messages and share files. When both parties have the software, all calls are free. Fees apply only to calls made to landlines and cell phones. Downloading the software also is free. All that site visitors have to do is click on the download link and follow the directions. More instructions and help are posted online as well.

My Dear Valentine
For those who want to send a card or letter on Valentine's Day, this site features several options to help anyone facing writer's block while staring at a giant heart-shaped card. Those seeking some help with putting feelings into writing can use links on the left side of the page to access items such as love quotes, love sayings, love messages and love letters. To help send the words along, the site offers e-cards with various themes, and once the words have taken effect, visitors can use the links to ideas for honeymoon trips and romantic vacations.

Hickory Farms
Chocolates may be the traditional food gift on Valentine's Day, but shipping them across continents, and to warm climates, can result in a gooey mess. Enter Hickory Farms, which is offering free shipping to APO and FPO addresses on a selection of products. Users can click the "Military Gifts" link near the top of the homepage to view the selection, which even includes some non-melting sweets items. A larger selection of items is available to those not sending gifts to military loved ones overseas, but shipping costs apply.

These sites are not affiliated with AFCEA or SIGNAL Magazine, and we are not responsible for the content or quality of the products offered. When visiting new Web sites, please use proper Internet security procedures.

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