After the twins lost interest in the project, I spent over an hour today inserting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tattoos into pre-made Valentine’s Day cards. This will be our children’s introduction to the holiday since they previously attended daycare and preschool in a synagogue where Valentine’s Day was not observed.
While I am not particularly crazy about the idea of them observing Valentine’s Day in their public school, I see no reason why they should miss all of the fun. I do not want our children to feel like outsiders, or that being Jewish is a punishment, something I often felt as one of the few Jews in my school as a child. And I have zero interest in creating an issue with the school where there really is none. We can opt out if we are strongly opposed to our children participating.
Unlike other non-Jewish holidays, I happen to have fond memories of Valentine’s Day. I remember excitedly walking around the classroom in elementary school, stuffing pre-made cards in brown paper bags that were taped to the back of my classmates’ chairs. It was even more thrilling in middle school when we received carnations with handwritten messages from secret crushes and friends.
I did tell the children in simple language that Valentine’s Day is an American holiday, and not a Jewish holiday. While they can enjoy the fun at school, once they leave the building, the holiday is no more. And when I reached out to my ex-husband for his thoughts on the matter, I was pleasantly surprised that for once we were on the same exact page. “Agreed,” was the one-word response when I told him my thoughts on how to handle the day. (If only all issues were so easily resolved.)
Valentine’s Day feels a lot less tricky than other non-Jewish holidays. Our first exposure to Christmas, for instance, was a bit of a disaster. I received a not-so-pleasant email from a mother who informed me that our child had ruined Jesus’s birthday not only for her son, but for her entire extended family, by stating that Santa does not exist. I responded to the email that I was glad she brought the issue to my attention and that I would certainly speak with our children to ensure that they are more sensitive towards others’ beliefs in the future.
I never heard anything further from the mother, so I assume that the issue died. I do, however, have my doubts as to whether we will receive a birthday party invitation for this child in the near future.
Unlike Christmas, I simply have little issue with the boys celebrating Valentine’s Day. No, it’s not Jewish, but it is possible to find a spark of Judaism everywhere. I am grateful that the school is using the opportunity to teach the importance of helping others by asking the children to make a monetary donation in exchange for wearing pajamas on that day. This is how we will connect Valentine’s Day to our faith. Not only will the children be able to show their love and appreciation to their peers and teachers, but they will also get another opportunity to give tzedakah for those in need. Love and charity…what could be more Jewish than that?