Valentine’s (to)Day

Modern celebrations for an ancient holiday

Junior Maya Arber prepares for Valentine’s Day by wearing her plastic candy ring.

photo courtesy of Maya Arber

Junior Maya Arber prepares for Valentine’s Day by wearing her plastic candy ring.

Shira Godin, Reporter

The legend begins in the third century, and the setting is Rome. Priest Valentine is horrified to discover that his ruler, Emperor Claudius II, has outlawed marriage for all young Roman men in an effort to make them more dependable soldiers. Valentine, who believes marriage is a God-given gift, opposes Claudius’ decree and begins performing weddings in secret.

While Valentine was imprisoned for these violations, his actions were recognized years later at the end of the fifth century when Pope Gelasius marked Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. It was only during the 14th century that Valentine’s commemoration became associated with romance, and now Valentine’s Day is celebrated across the United States as a day dedicated to love.

Although Valentine’s Day is a national holiday, CESJDS does not observe it. Director of Jewish Life Stephanie Hoffman believes Valentine’s Day should remain unacknowledged at JDS not only for its Christian origins, but also for the message it portrays. Hoffman rejects the notion that love should only be recognized annually.

“If I’m going to say ‘I love you,’ if I’m going to … celebrate that, then it’s not just that one day a year,” Hoffman said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Hoffman also believes that Valentine’s Day negatively affects students since the pressure of getting a valentine can be stressful and emotionally harmful. She explained that the holiday’s celebration of love is exclusive and uncomfortable for singles, and questioned why people promote a day that “not everybody is a part of.”

Junior Maya Arber disagrees with Hoffman, and instead welcomes the holiday as a break from her usual routine. She opposes the idea that it encourages only one day of loving per year, and believes that Valentine’s Day is “a great way to appreciate the people around you.”

“I love Valentine’s Day,” Arber said. “It’s a time where I can be happy and kind of distract myself from all of the stress and duties I have to do … with my life and with school.”

In contrast to Arber’s opinion, History Department Chair Mark Buckley agrees with Hoffman that the school should not recognize Valentine’s Day. He considers it a holiday that should be celebrated individually.

“It really is mostly meaningful on such a small personal level,” Buckley said. “I don’t know why it stands out or gets the kind of acknowledgement it does as a holiday.”

As a history teacher, Buckley understands how holidays have changed over time and how people begin “to mold them to their own purposes.” For example, he argues that many see Valentine’s Day as a way for companies to make a profit.

“Valentine’s Day tends to be one of those days that, through the process of commercialization and development of society, has kind of been blown into something else,” Buckley said.

Despite the commercialization of the holiday and its Christian origins, freshman Micah Shull believes that Valentine’s Day has survived as simply an acknowledgment of love. Shull believes that the secular nature of the holiday in society makes it more of an American celebration than a Christian holiday.

Shull agrees with Arber that the importance of Valentine’s Day is the opportunity it gives to specifically appreciate those around him once a year. He has celebrated the holiday in the past, and thinks that doing so can be very meaningful.

“I think we should treasure [Valentine’s Day] for as long as we can,” Shull said. “It’s always nice to recognize love.”