With Valentine’s Day approaching, there’s a lot of talk surrounding the legitimacy (and necessity) of the holiday. A few years ago, World Mic reported that Malaysia, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and even select schools in Florida, had all banned celebrating the day. I’ve also heard of new rules being implemented in some Canadian and American schools revolving around what kind of Valentines (if any) can be handed out in classrooms — led by a “no hugging” policy.
While I don’t necessarily need one consumer-driven day telling me how to celebrate my loved ones, I’m not losing any sleep over it either. Mounds of cinnamon and chalky candy hearts aside, the message that my kids will truly understand about Valentine’s Day will come from home, regardless of what they do at school. It’s advertising and the media surrounding the day that makes my job a little more difficult; it’s what makes it hard to teach them that the day is about love, not buying stuff. It’s my mission to teach them that it’s more about the love and kindness we exhibit and feel in the everyday but also that it’s quite alright to go the extra mile every now and then. I want them to experience the giving and receiving of gifts from the heart (especially handmade) and appreciate thoughtful gestures of romance need not be a lost art. To me, that’s the easy part. The tough part? Well, that will be teaching them that love comes and goes. It can can hurt like hell and is as fickle as the weather. It is for those who need it most, those less fortunate than us, and those who are misunderstood and/or forgotten. But most especially: they should always have love for themselves.
This, however, is not how everyone sees February 14th. I posed the question to Facebook, to some interesting (and varied) responses, and here’s what I found out …
Those who were in favor of Valentine’s Day …
“Who says there is one perfect way to celebrate anything? Many holidays have evolved beyond recognition from their initial origins, incorporating new customs depending on the cultural, social, or spiritual influences of the time. There will always be people who allow society [and the] media to dictate their response, or trigger their spending, instead of initiating acts of kindness from the heart. I agree that love and generosity should be spontaneous, and not confined to a handful of holidays throughout the year.
Not everybody does; not everybody gets it, and that’s not going to change, either. Each family must decide for themselves how much they buy into commercialism (pun intended!) and what kind of example they set for their kids. I also think that a lot of adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. Kids aren’t concerned with the origins of tradition. They don’t understand “falling in love” as such. They are impulsive and love gifts (giving and receiving) and simply want to participate in a positive experience their class is sharing as a group.
It’s fine (and justified) to say that there are negative connotations associated with Valentine’s Day, or any holiday, but should it follow with a ban on celebrating? With NO efforts made, no exchanges, no gestures? That this is somehow better? There is already a ‘No Hugging’ policy at my son’s school. How is it an improvement to also ban messages of friendship and love?”
— Dana Ruprecht
“I grew up a religious, racial, and economic outsider. We lived in the ghetto, someone once shot through my bedroom wall while I was playing. My parents saved all their money to send me to a private school in the middle of nowhere. I had one friend. She had a health issue and was not often at school. I felt very alone. I loved Valentine’s Day. It was the day everyone remembered me. They had to select a card for me. They had to look me in my face and give me a gift. I felt non-invisible for a few moments to the people who were all very visible to me. My mother scraped [together money] for my cards, I loved the opportunity to be on equal footing. I loved that there was something I could do that the others also were doing. For one day, I was completely included, even if in name only. I kept my cards until I was in high school.
I understood that these kids would not have placed my name down unless they had been forced [to] but it was a mandatory moment where everyone had to practice thinking of everyone else. That’s a good practice. It’s valuable to teach our children to value the people they don’t. To look at those they overlook. Years later, my own children entered school and into the mandatory Valentine-giving tradition. My son was excited at the chance to give his classmates something. He loves to give gifts. He gave with a loving heart. He felt joy.
Banning V-day does nothing. Growing our society intentionally into people who remember to include others has great value. There’s some little kid who loves the gifts and [it] goes a little in the way of restoring their faith in life. Come up with creative solutions for everything else … we are raising our children one by one.”
— Melanie Stormm
Those were against Valentine’s Day …
“I feel like it needs to be clarified. It, like most of our other traditions around the year, has contradictory meaning or significance. Rituals can hold more than one story. As far as I understand it, this day’s origin goes back to fertility festivals when boys and girls picked names from a bowl to find a mate for the festival. It had nothing to do with giving cards to friends and crushes and making some kids feel left out. Valentine’s cards should be left for ‘new love,’ not a group event.”
— Sean Cotton
“At the risk of offending, I think Valentine’s Day is ridiculous — it’s really just a commercial industry. However, I don’t think it’s the school’s place to determine what customs [and] rituals people and their children practice; that’s up to the parents. There are so many ways we can teach kids to embrace giving love and sharing. I think that there are so many negative messages in the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated and practiced that they far outweigh the positive ones.
I’m sure some parents do a good job of making it somewhat meaningful and positive but essentially, IMHO, even those parents are setting their kids up to have a positive association with Valentine’s Day and to have certain expectations of that day. We should be teaching our kids to express love in ways that really matter and really make a difference, everyday. For example, buying a bunch of cards and filling them out for every kid in the class, does not really do anything, especially if everybody does that at the same time.”
— Essae Joseph
Me? I kind of fancy there being a special day, designated for going all out. It’s a reminder (to me at least), to make love a part of our everyday. The rituals of love are vast and the options in which to display it, show it, honor it, respect it, and reciprocate it are endless. After all, in the words of the wise and incomparable Kinnie Starr, “Love is a VERB. Use it.”