Should Jews Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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Dear Miriam,

What’s your opinion on Jews celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Signed,

Rose or Noes?

Dear Noes,

My ambivalence about Valentine’s Day runs deep. I’ve written a few columns on Halloween and advocated for the fact that its Christian and/or pagan roots are largely irrelevant now, which makes it a great opportunity for some community fun.

Valentine’s Day is similar, in that it’s hugely popular in America and is also almost completely devoid of any actual Christian content today (save for that pesky “St.” before the namesake’s name). But the main difference is that Halloween is fun if you do it right, and Valentine’s Day is pointless under the best of circumstances. You asked.

I even did some Wikipedia research on the topic and learned that the connection between the saint and romantic love are kind of foggy, and that most of the churches that still celebrate St. Valentine do so at other times of year, not February. Also, any connection to St. Valentine’s historical martyrdom seem drastically separate from the passionate feelings people have about conversation hearts. That is, even people who take Valentine’s Day seriously, assuming those people do exist, aren’t doing so in memory of a saint.

Also, the precision of my answer depends on what you mean by celebrate. If you have a significant other and neither of you cares about Valentine’s Day, don’t make it into a thing. (Also, please apply this rock-solid relationship advice elsewhere as needed.) If your SO does care, try to find out far enough in advance to do something about it, and try your best to manage each other’s expectations so you can both get your needs met. But an overpriced prix fixe dinner? Eh. Try to manage expectations away from that maybe, unless it genuinely appeals to you.

If you have a Jewish child whose class is exchanging Valentine’s Day cards, I see no reason to exclude them from the activity. You can frame it as, “This is a day when people like to say write nice cards to people and eat candy.” That’s true enough, and except for the part where you make the kid write the cards, they’ll probably enjoy the experience. I see no reason to complicate matters by saying some people think it’s a Christian holiday. In this case, your child will probably only experience of it what they see in school, which will be sugar and cards.

If you are asking this question because you feel bad about not having a date or you are worried that you should have done something that you didn’t, let that go right now. If saying you don’t celebrate because you’re Jewish gives you a welcome excuse, embrace that as a very excellent Jewish privilege. Enjoy making glittery hearts if that’s your thing, and absolutely one thousand percent ignore the whole day if it doesn’t spark joy. If you like chocolate, like, even a little bit, you should definitely take advantage of the post-Valentine’s Day sales, but beyond that, and the amount of time you just spent reading this column, don’t give it a second thought.

Be well,

Miriam

P.S. Readers: Thanks for reading. Consider sending me a question to answer (anonymously of course) in an upcoming column. Real questions from real people keep this column going, and I’d love to hear from you. Email [email protected] and put “Advice Well Question” in the subject line. And thanks.