February 14 is a very special day for many couples around the world. Valentine’s Day started out as a Catholic holiday, so there have been discussions among Jews over whether or not it is ok to celebrate this holiday. In my opinion, celebrating Valentine’s Day is perfectly acceptable, and it should not be considered a “Catholic holiday,” but a secular holiday. Why do I believe that Valentine’s Day is a secular holiday that Jews can celebrate wherever they live, even at The Weber School? That starts with this holiday’s extremely vague origin story.
Valentine’s Day was named after Saint Valentine, a Catholic Saint, which is the main reason many view it as a Catholic holiday. This saint’s history is not as clear as some of the other saints’ histories, but there are some key facts that tend to remain the same. He died on February 14, 269 CE in Rome, Italy, which is one reason why Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the February 14. Also, his story revolves around romance, and he died a martyr. Lastly, he was a Saint (obviously). The rest of the story is a bit murky.
One legend tells of Emperor Claudius II forbidding soldiers to marry, and Saint Valentine secretly marrying soldiers to their lovers so that they could feel the joy of marriage. Another legend suggests that Saint Valentine assisted Christians in escaping horrible Roman prisons. According to this legend, Valentine wrote a note to his jailer’s daughter, writing, “From your Valentine,” thus creating the tradition of card-giving that we still use today, along with the tradition of making Target rich. Valentine’s Day was later created to honor this saint. Valentine’s Day was placed on February 14 because the Catholic Church wanted to draw attention away from Lupercalia, a pagan holiday, which also fell on February 14.
Given this information, it seems that Valentine’s Day is indeed a Catholic holiday, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, the Vatican removed Valentine’s Day from the General Roman Calendar because of the many discrepancies in Saint Valentine’s origin story. If the Vatican does not count Valentine’s Day as an official Catholic holiday, then others should not consider it to be one either. Because it is no longer a Catholic holiday, it should be considered a secular holiday because of how many people around the United States celebrate it, regardless of their religions.
This holiday can be considered a secular holiday because of how many people celebrate it. And here is some news: secular holidays are perfectly fine for Jews to celebrate. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein stated, “Regarding the question of celebrating on gentiles’ holidays out of their beliefs, if it is for the purpose of the holiday then it isn’t permitted by law and if it isn’t with this purpose then it should be banned for reason of outward impression.” This holiday is so popular that “Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas,” according to history.com. Can a holiday this deeply rooted in American culture, and the culture of couples around the globe, be considered a non-Kosher holiday? Once again, I do not think so.
Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday celebrating love and affection. Couples all over the world celebrate this holiday, not for the candy or cards, but to commemorate the love they have for each other. People celebrate this holiday to spread the message of peace, equality, understanding, and of course, love. It is very important to make Valentine’s Day an outlet for all forms of love, including same sex marriage, something that is definitely needed in countries where gay marriage is unfortunately still outlawed. Sure, we may not celebrate Ramadan, Lent, or All Saints Day because they belong to other religions, but Valentine’s Day is a secular holiday that can be used to spread a positive message throughout our community. The question is not “Should Jews celebrate Valentine’s Day?”, but rather “Why should we not be celebrating Valentine’s Day?”
Judaism itself has already decided the answer: we can. Tu B’Av, a minor Jewish holiday, “served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple period (before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.),” according to My Jewish Learning. Moreover, Tu B’Av is slowly becoming more popular for Jews and is evolving into a Jewish-Hebrew holiday celebrating love.
The cat is out of the bag. Jews already have their own version of Valentine’s Day. Now, let’s stop making a big fuss over whether or not Valentine’s Day is ok to celebrate. Valentine’s Day is a secular holiday, not a Catholic one. This Valentine’s Day, we should send cards to our loved ones, spread joy through the world, and make sure our valentines know we love them. With all of my compliments, please have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.