I always assumed that Valentine's Day was one of those things that observant Jews got a pass on, like Halloween. What I mean by that is that I can safely escape the craziness of it all without feeling guilty. It's just not my holiday, so I don't need to deal with it or feel bad about not having someone to observe it with (with whom to observe it, whatever). I don't need to dress up on Halloween or give out candy and I don't need to feel sad on Valentine's Day if nobody tells me that they love me or if nobody buys me chocolate or flowers. Because, you know, since I'm Jewish, it's just like any other day when nobody does those things! Furthermore, I already know I'm loved and who needs a special day just to find that out? And isn't that what birthdays are for?
But then I read JT's post (of DaBoysof905) and that got me wondering what the deal is with Valentine's Day, anyway. Like Halloween, I feel fairly secure in the knowledge that I am better off not observing it, but what if I actually wanted to for some reason? Could I?
A-googling I went!
WhyDateJewish.com, a project of NCSY, a division of the Orthodox Union, claims that Valentine's Day is:
- Catholic (despite the fact that it was removed from the Catholic calendar in 1969)
- pagan (says that the Church got it from Lupercalia, "a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.")
- assur [forbidden]
- and, anyway, we have Tu B'Av instead!
In later posts on mail-Jewish, many people vehemently disagree with Rabbi Broyde and call celebrating Valentine's Day "the worst kind of avodah zara [idol worship]." A few people agree with Rabbi Broyde or at least disagree about Valentine's Day being "the worst kind of avodah zara" (say, worse than passing your children through fire to worship molech). One even thought that even "ba'alei nefesh" (pious folks) could happily celebrate Valentine's Day.I think it is the conduct of the pious to avoid explicitly celebrating
Valentine's day with a Valentine's day card, although bringing home
chocolate, flowers or even jewelry to one's beloved is always a nice
idea all year around, including on February 14.
This comment on Daniel Pipes' blog points out that "In 1349, one of the largest single pre-Holocaust massacres of Jews took place on Valentine's Day in Strasbourg, France, where Jews, blamed for the spread of the plague, were burned alive en masse by the citizenry: 2,000 men, women, and children died on the feast of love." This is given as a reason (among others) for Jews not celebrating Valentine's Day. I sort of think that's neither here nor there. Not very convincing, although it is, of course, sad. It's not really nice to purposely go out and celebrate on a day when 2,000 Jews were burned, but, really, are there any days that many Jews have not died? (The page I just linked to is terribly sad.) There must be a lot of days between, I dunno, 1939 and 1945 when 2,000 Jews died in one day. Is that any less sad because we don't know who they were or when they died?
Arthur Magida from Beliefnet also weighs in when someone asks him an etiquette question about celebrating Valentine's Day in a Jewish nursing home. He also mentions the 1349 Strasbourg massacre, which I had never heard of. Now I'm beginning to be more convinced.
The upshot? It looks like I can keep feeling great about not caring about Valentine's Day and not feel like I should be doing something special tonight. (So far, tonight, I mopped one wet floor at work to prevent some people from slipping. Honestly, I feel pretty good about that.)
Bonus link! On IslamWeb.net, there is an article warning Muslim youths, in particular, against celebrating Valentine's Day. And Fatwa #627, from this past January, forbids the same thing. Here's another note about that, this time from a Jewish source.
Bonus link #2! This church warns "true Christians" against observing Valentine's Day, because it is pagan. (The church says that it is the successor to the Worldwide Church of God, which, well, you can read about it here. I once worked with someone who had been raised in the church, and he had less-than-kind words to say about it.)