From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
It’s been an unsettling week.
My two oldest children were born on Valentine’s Day, two years apart. So, I had to consider whether to cancel their birthday celebrations.
Cancelling Valentine’s Day has become a major issue. Some Ontario schools have banned Valentine’s Day celebrations, saying they are not inclusive.
A handful of schools in other parts of Canada and the U.S. also have banned or restricted Valentine’s Day activities. So have some countries, including Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Valentine’s Day has been considered a Christian celebratory day not accepted by many people of non-Christian faiths. Buddhism doesn’t directly discourage Valentine’s Day but emphasizes other ways other cultivating love and happiness.
Some school principals say we live in a diverse society with schoolrooms composed of students of different races, religions and cultures. If they come from families that do not accept Valentine’s Day, they feel excluded at school when other students are exchanging cards and sweets.
Their answer to avoid exclusion is quick and simplistic: Cancel Valentine’s Day so no one feels excluded.
That’s the wrong answer. Cancelling things not socially acceptable to all is wrong-headed, and harmful.
If we cancel Valentine’s Day because some don’t accept it or believe in it, perhaps we should also cancel Hallowe’en, Christmas, Easter and other events that might make someone feel excluded. Some people don’t accept Pride parades, so should Pride events be banned?
Banning and cancelling have become a favoured approach by people professing to help create a more inclusive and equitable society. In most cases their intentions are good but their actions are negative and create conflicts.
For instance, families for whom Valentine’s Day celebrations have been a tradition might feel angry at being deprived by a minority that does not share their views.
Backlash from such situations has created toxic anger – even hatred – against some minorities and immigration. It has fed extreme right-wing theories that foreigners are taking over the country.
Right-wing anti-immigration attitudes have been moving into general populations, especially in the United States. A Gallup Poll last summer found that almost one-quarter of Americans surveyed believe that immigration is a bad thing.
We don’t need that kind of negative nonsense here in Canada. Thankfully, we don’t have a whole lot of it. Yet.
An Environics survey last fall found that seven of 10 Canadians support current immigration levels, which now stand at roughly 400,000 newcomers a year. That is the largest majority recorded on Environics surveys in 45 years.
That support will be eroded, however, if we continue to restrict or ban things that some groups do not support. We all need to promote ways to help us to learn about and understand each other’s culture and beliefs. Especially people working with our children in our schools.
The most misguided thinking on Valentine’s Day bans comes from the belief that it is a western religious celebration. There have been several Saint Valentines throughout ancient history but their stories are confusing and clouded by unproven embellishments.
The Catholic church has removed Saint Valentine’s Day from its general Roman calendar, a liturgical calendar that indicates dates to celebrate saints. The church said the day was removed because aside from his name, nothing much is known about Saint Valentine.
The day became associated with romantic love back in the 14th or 15th century. In the 18th century the English began the tradition of expressing love with flowers, candies and cards.
And that’s where we are today. Valentine’s Day is a major commercial celebration that generates tens of millions of dollars in spending each year. Any religious connections have faded into the mists of ancient history.
There are few provable facts about Valentine’s Day but here are a couple of interesting Fun Facts for Kids from the We Are Teachers website:
- More than one billion cards are exchanged for Valentine’s Day every year. Teachers are the No. 1 recipients.
- And, 20 percent of pet owners give Valentine’s Day gifts to their pets.
So let’s get positive and see the day as it really is today: A day about love and kindness.
We live in a world that could use all the love and kindness that it can get.