I am watching the 5:30 p.m. news when a colorfully red commercial pops up advertising Valentine’s Day with a jewelry store’s array of diamonds, which of course “would make wonderful gifts for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day.”
It really got my attention because I am writing this on Jan. 31 and Valentine’s Day is still two weeks away. Maybe it will take that long to float a loan to pay for those expensive jewelry items.
By the time you read this, Valentine’s Day, 2017, will have passed, but after seeing that ad, I recalled that growing up in a primarily Jewish neighborhood in The Bronx during the 1940s and early ’50s, Valentine’s Day was still called by many adults “Saint Valentine’s Day,” a goyishe holiday.
Times were changing, however, and many Jewish and non-Jewish youth seized the day as an opportunity to express their romantic feelings by giving Hallmark or homemade heart cards to the girl of their dreams. Valentine’s Day had no aspects of religion attached to it at all.
As far as religion is concerned, what may have begun as a pagan purification ritual in ancient Rome was introduced into the Catholic church’s rites of purification, honoring two or three saints, all named Valentine.
Because of the confusion surrounding the true identity of Saint Valentine, Pope Paul VI removed him from the Catholic calendar of saints in 1969.
For those Jews who still think of Valentine’s Day as a Christian belief, there is always Tu B’Av (15th of Av), falling this year on Aug. 7.
Historically, Tu B’Av was a celebration of the grape harvest in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, which included unmarried girls dressed in white, dancing in the vineyards.
In modern Israel, Tu B’Av has great similarities to Valentine’s Day, a day of engagements, weddings, renewal of vows and a general celebration of love.
So, if you are really serious about the one you love, remember that you will have another opportunity to express your feelings on Tu B’Av, Aug. 7.