Minnesota Mamaleh: I Love Valentine’s Day!
Actually, I love all holidays. And if I had enough time in the day, I’d research them all up and we’d do every single one of them to the hilt! We’d be a nice Kwanzaa loving, Cinco de Mayo enjoying, Chinese New Year celebrating little Jewish family. In Minnesota.
But alas, I already wish that I got a bit more sleep so we don’t celebrate everything. We do, however celebrate all Jewish holidays and all American holidays, too. And that includes Valentine’s Day.
I love the hearts. The red and pink clothes, hair ribbons, food, everything really. The cookies, the chocolates, the cards. I love it all. And we do it all. Imagine my surprise when Kayli started preschool at a fabulous Jewish school and they didn’t *gulp* celebrate Valentine’s Day. Class lists were not sent home, class time was not set aside for valentine deliveries and Valentine’s Day was not on the theme list.
It was just so sad! Don’t get me wrong, we sent valentines in anyway. I just helped Kayli deliver them myself.
Rereading that, I realize what a blatant disregard for the rules that was and I’m not 100% sure what kind of a message that sent to Kayli. Or Jason, who pretty much stays out of the way when I get into holiday mode. Smart, smart man.
But, really people? What exactly is the purpose of not celebrating American holidays? What message are we trying to send when we “opt out” of lovely card giving, friend appreciating, chocolate indulging holidays?
I went to grad school in California where we thought A LOT about questions such as these. My program was called “The Academy” and we focused on authentic learning. We researched our students’ backgrounds and used this information to help guide our curriculum because kids are motivated to learn new things when the lesson starts with something known and familiar.
We were actually kind of a pain in the tuchus. The heads of our program told us that many of the other professors chose to not teach Academy sections because we asked too many questions and over-analyzed everything. Those of you who know me well can refrain from stating what a perfect match that sounds like. Thanks!
We student taught in Academy alumni classrooms where we observed student-run, diplomatic class meetings, dialogue defined and used and authentic holiday celebrations. As in really authentic.
For example, on Halloween students didn’t just dress up and carve pumpkins.
Although they did do that, too. Because it’s fun. They also learned about Dia de Los Muertos. Because it’s authentic. Costumes and pictures honoring deceased loved ones went together surprisingly well and a whole lot of learning happened. Win-win.
So when I had my first little group of Kindergartners, I too had class meetings, dialogue and authentic holidays. After Dia de los Muertos was such a success, I was raring to go when Valentine’s Day rolled around.
As I researched the origins of Valentine’s Day I learned a lot about saints and conflicting histories. While the stories gave me pause, for sure, they didn’t deter me from teaching Valentine’s Day in all its glory to my students.
And I feel the same way about teaching and celebrating Valentine’s Day with my own kids. They’ve been taught that a long, long, long time ago there was a connection to a Saint Valentine. And today, not so much.
And really, what’s the harm in setting a day aside for love? So what if it’s been Hallmark-ized. You, my dear friends, have control over how you celebrate holidays and you need not step into a Hallmark store if you’re really opposed to it. Just spend the day loving and adoring family and friends. Yet another win-win.
In reflecting upon some of the lovely friends that Kayli and Chloe have made at their Jewish preschool over the years, I realized that a staggering number of them are actually not Jewish. Their parents chose a Jewish school because of it’s location, amazing teachers and stellar curriculum. And while Jason and I agree whole-heartedly with all of these qualities, we really just go there because we want our kids to go somewhere Jewish.
I was struck by how very open-minded these families were in this decision; knowing full well that their kids would be learning about holidays and celebrations that are very different from their own family’s beliefs.
It would never occur to me to send my own kids to a Christian school. As in, I drive way out of my way several times a week through absolutely horrid weather to avoid just such a situation.
Some of our new non-Jewish preschool friends, however, cheer for their kids at Hanukkah programs, buy challah on Fridays and learn the words to Boker Tov willingly and happily.
Perhaps we can all take a lesson or two from these families. If something, such as Valentine’s Day, is good for kids (as I believe holidays, celebrations, days set aside to be different, special and fun are), perhaps that is more important than the fact that it is different or non-traditional to us.
With that, I wish you the happiest of Valentine’s Days! You have just enough
time to pull together some tokens of affection for people from all different parts of your life. Don’t hesitate, just send that Hallmark card already. And feel free to add some chocolate to it as well!