It is February 13, and, yet again, I have not bought those silly, pre-printed Valentines. When my children were in elementary school, I did buy them. It was required.
I’d watch other children walk to school clutching red-heart-decorated shoe and boot boxes to collect the cards and treats. I supervised reluctant card-signing.
Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday observed on February 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs (none of whom are known for love or romance). It was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, and was deleted from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.
The roots of St. Valentine’s Day may lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated February 13 – 15. Priests of the festival whipped bystanders. Being touched by the whip was supposed to increase fertility in women.
What exactly are we celebrating?
I understand that contemporary Valentine’s celebrations in school are not about Christian saints or Roman holidays. I understand (sort-of) that they are supposed to be fun. But what are we teaching? How do children who are socially inept, bullied, or shy experience this holiday?
Same, Same! Cards for Everybody!
Children are required to give a card to each child in their class, so that no one feels left out. But kids know who likes them and who doesn’t. They know whom they like. They know when they are giving cards because they have to, versus giving cards they want to.
Teaching children to be kind and considerate to all of their classmates is a valuable lesson. Teaching them to treat everyone the same, is not.
All children do not all wish to be treated the same. When sad, one child might like a hug, another to talk it out, a third would prefer to be left alone. Some children show their excitement with high-fives and shouts, others flick their fingers or flap their hands.
And a Little Red Dye #40
Almost half of my children’s classrooms have been peanut free. One was latex free. Our homeschool group avoided eggs because one family had life-threatening allergies. But artificial colors and flavors have been allowed in all classrooms. (Except at the Waldorf school. But that’s a separate, otherwise awful story.)
The UK banned artificial food dyes in 2008 after a study suggested they are related to hyperactive behavior in children. The UK demands that manufacturers use natural colors and flavors and US companies use natural products in the UK — while continuing to use artificial dyes in the products sold in the US. (Learn more from Deborah Merlin, author of Victory over ADHD.)
My daughter was severely affected by red food coloring as a child. Now, she avoids fake-red foods saying, “It makes me crazy.”
- I wonder what would happen if, in lieu of pre-printed, generic cards, we asked each child to think of one thing they admire about each classmate.
- I wonder if the children would be surprised to discover that there really is something good about every person in the room, even in those children they don’t like.
- I wonder how it would feel to receive 20-some pieces of paper that showed us the wonderfulness our classmates found in us.
What would you have the schools do in place of the humbug that is Valentine’s Day?
I am now homeschooling my only remaining elementary school-aged child and am thrilled to announce that I did not buy cards or candy for Valentine’s Day this year.