Valentine’s Day Across the Curriculum: Exploring the History, Literature, Economics, Science, Math and Psychology of Love and Romance

Valentine’s Day Across the Curriculum: Exploring the History, Literature, Economics, Science, Math and Psychology of Love and Romance

— Or, go on a hunt through Times Machine, as we did in this post, putting in the search term “Valentine’s Day” to see how the holiday was celebrated, and reported on, in Times history.

— Just what are we celebrating when we celebrate Valentine’s Day? Where did this holiday come from and why do we care about it so much? Read this article about major Valentine’s Day theories, from ancient Rome to the present. Then, do your own research to see what other histories you can find. Which do you find the most compelling and why?

— Where in the world is Valentine’s Day, or a tradition like it, celebrated? How does it differ from celebrations in the U.S.? For instance, read “‘You Can’t Ban Love’: Pakistanis Defy a Valentine’s Day Prohibition” to learn about how the Islamabad High Court banned Valentine’s celebrations across Pakistan, deeming them “against the teachings of Islam” and a sign of growing Western influence — and how some are taking a risk by celebrating anyway. Or, read about the day sometimes called Russian St. Valentine’s Day and what it honors.

— The speed and the scope of the gay rights movement has been “astonishing” compared to that of movements for African-Americans’ or women’s rights, The Times wrote in a 2013 piece, “A Sea Change in Less Than 50 Years as Gay Rights Gained Momentum.” Two years later a Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage a right nationwide in the United States. What do you know about the history of this movement in the United States? Elsewhere in the world? Use Times search to learn more, and to see where L.G.B.T.Q. issues stand today.

Test a Psychological Experiment

— Here’s how “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” one of the most popular-ever posts on It begins:

More than 20 years ago, the psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. Last summer, I applied his technique in my own life, which is how I found myself standing on a bridge at midnight, staring into a man’s eyes for exactly four minutes.

Read the essay and discuss whether or not you believe this could actually work — or put it to the test by experimenting with a partner and the 36 Questions That Lead to Love. After, consider the questions we ask in our related Student Opinion question: What makes two people fall in love? Is it fate or chemistry? Or could it simply be having the chance to get to know someone intimately in a short period of time?

— Or, read another of the most popular Modern Love columns of all time, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage,” and learn about the behavioral techniques the writer learned from a dolphin trainer to “nudge” her husband “a little closer to perfect.” You might then try out similar techniques, whether in the context of a relationship, a bad habit of your own, or as a way to “nudge” your school or community on a particular issue or behavior.