Feb 15, 2009

To Valentine, or Not to Valentine?

I know many of my Orthodox friends don't dabble in this most holy of holidays (I'm only half-kidding here), but I'm wondering if this is the standard among the observant community. I know that Valentine's Day is the day that two Catholic saints were killed/martyred, so I'm guessing this is why observant Jews don't trade little sweets or cards with their sweethearts. But it seems to be one of those Westernized things that people just do. Now, I know this argument is used by a lot of non-observant Jews for celebrating Christmas, but I don't know that it's the same thing. There aren't any religious elements tied to Valentine's day really. At least, in my mind, it's just a reason to buy your sweetheart something.

I had a friend in elementary school who was a Jehovah's Witness, so she was always pulled out of school on the holidays when we had holiday celebrations (this was in Southern Missouri, mind you, and we celebrated everything -- Valentine's, Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick's, you name it). But every holiday that the rest of us got gifts, she did, too. Her birthday would role around and she'd get gifts for "being a good kid" not because it was her birthday. It seemed like such a cop-out, and it drove me nuts even as a 10-year-old. Thus, I have no desire to be one of those kind of people who feigns a reason to give.

So Tuvia and I traded gifts, went out for dinner, and got all dolled up for the evening. If it's one of those things where my rav says "you can't do Valentine's anymore" then, well, if there's a good halakic reason, I'm done. What are your thoughts? Did you give it up? Do you still slip your sweety a valentine? Do you exchange gifts but not because of the holiday?

(This is the bracelet he got me. My wrist looks hugely fat. Weird. Anyway, there are several charms on there, check 'em out!)

13 comments:

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

It seems that I wrote on my blog last year that it's better not to get involved with Valentines stuff (if it can easily be avoided) since it has it's roots in the (Pagan) Roman Lupercalia holiday. The way way one should not participate in Yule celebrations, due to it's Pagan origions. Many of these modern holidays are renmants of the Pagan society which our ancestors worked so hard to deflect. Anyway, if there is some "crush" or something that needs to be manifested, giving mishloach manot on Purim to a romantic interest is (at least) a more Judaic way of doing it.

chaviva said...

Indeed, so much of what we do is a result of the need to move away from paganism and monolatry, though nowadays the reasonings for avoiding St. Patty's and Winter Solstice and Valentine's almost have more to do with the Christian spin on the original pagan holidays. Either way, thanks for your take on things :D

Tuvia said...

I really don't see any religious aspects to it at all anymore. I know most Orthodox Jews don't celebrate it, but why? It really has become nothing more than a Hallmark holiday. Its an excuse to get dressed up and exchange gifts. I don't know one person who celebrates it that has a religious connection to it.

ilanadavita said...

Valentine Day is so commercial that I can't stand it anyway.

Kate said...

As you said, there are no religious actions tied to Valentine's Day anymore (no Christian says, "Oh, gotta get to church, it's St. Valentine's Day!"), unlike Christmas, which has become secularized but still has deep religious meaning to many of its celebrants. I don't celebrate Valentine's Day because A) I'm usually single, and B) I think it's pretty lame to designate a day to show your love, but I can't see anything wrong with celebrating it by, you know, SHOWING your love, if it's something you're interested in doing. No harm in being loving! :)

Jess said...

is that a pandora bracelet, or a similar one?? i love pandora <3 i have 2 :)

chaviva said...

@Jess It's definitely one of those kinds of bracelets. Tuvia would know the actual name :)

@Everyone I think that it definitely is more than a Hallmark holiday. We have to consider the origins of holidays, too. It sounds stupid and insignificant in this day and age, but if we look at where a lot of Jewish holidays and observances and traditions come from, we'd notice that they arose out of a desire to move away from the pagan/idolatrous lifestyle. I dunno. I think history is important. Plus, we can give our sweeties things all the time instead of feeding into the frenzy of one day a year :)

Dunking Rachel said...

having once been a Catholic, It never was something you learned about, studied etc...in fact the story of who/what is behind St. Valentine's Day has gone through so much revision unless you are a historian of saints I don't think it has any relevance...in fact in most places the "St." as in saint part has even been lost....

I had a wonderful Valentine's day....my first married to my wonderful husband..... (smile)

and we did it all at home on Shabbat!

karen

chaviva said...

@Karen/DR Interesting. We did some gift giving (boxes weren't wrapped, and Tuvia pre-cut the tape so I could just open the box up), and waited to rip things open till post-Shabbos. I guess it's sort of "to each his own" kind of thing. I'm just wondering if a rabbi would scold someone for actually celebrating/exchanging gifts on VDay.

Jess said...

my cousin is a Jehovah's witness, and what really urks me is that he has a son, who is now 9, but when he was younger... 5ish, the kid would tell all of us we were going to hell because we were going to church!!! I can't believe that those thoughts would be put into a 5 year old kid!

But I think holidays are good, like Valentine's day, I am Christian, but even thought it has a Catholic background, which is so nice and sad at the same time, it gives lovers the right to be proud they are allowed to be the religion they want to be, and can show love and affection for each other. It also shows that we all can get married and be happy no matter our background.

<3 brava to Chavi

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Again, just to follow up, I was speaking from a Judaic and halakhic perspective. In that realm there are concepts like "" and "". We prohibit things that once had something to do with something to do with Paganism (like non-Jewish wine nd such). Modern St. Valentines day seems to have a direct link to the Lupercalia mid-winter fertility festivals that I mentioned. That should be enough to create suspision for Valentines related activities. As Kate said, one can display affection at any time.

This is also related to what Jess just said about the witnesses; they don't believe in the holidays for good reason. A good example is Haloween. Christian theologians struggled for a long time to shape the reality of the day in a way that was more fitting to Christianity. But still, if they don't say anything about it, that doesn't mean they're totally OK with it..

chaviva said...

Silence is not approval. This is something my parents use to tell me :)

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Hm. Looks like I forgot my quotations empty there! I wanted to say concepts like "חשש עבודה זרה" and "אבזרייהו דעבודה זרה".

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