Heart Tweak: MacDuffie’s 80 Year-Old Tradition Is No Longer Mandatory


Alison Jackson, Managing Editor

After years of watching students receive half-eaten apples (or even nothing at all) during a week designed to bring joy amidst the winter gloom, the MacDuffie administration took action. Collaborating with the student council, they came to the decision that, for the sake of MacDuffie students, Heart Week could no longer be mandatory.

By making Heart Week participation optional—and adding a new option to only participate for one day of the week—a MacDuffie tradition dating back nearly eight decades was altered. Many members of the MacDuffie community regarded this change in a positive light, believing it made the week more enjoyable for those who wished to participate.

Dean of Boarding Dina Lyman estimated that Heart Week has taken place since the 1940s or 1950s. Up until this year, every MacDuffie student would receive the name of a random student or faculty member, whom they would anonymously give small gifts to throughout the week. Accompanying each small gift would be a clue, which recipients would use to try to determine the identity of their Heart Person by the end of the week.

When Lyman attended MacDuffie (then an all-girls’ school) in the 1960s, the tradition was called ‘Heart Sister Week.’ However, many aspects of the tradition have remained the same since Lyman’s high school years; she recollects how students used to sell flowers to their classmates, much like the Muse’s annual carnation sale. Additionally, Lyman explained that the primary purpose of ‘Heart Sister Week’ had been to “try to meet someone that you didn’t already know” — a concept that holds true to Heart Week today.

However, student enthusiasm differentiated Lyman’s Heart Week experience from that of a MacDuffie student now. “In the sixties, everyone thought it was kind of fun,” Lyman said. It was during the decades that followed that “not everybody would participate and people would be just heartbroken if they didn’t get something.” This eventually led to the administrative decision to make Heart Week optional.

Dean of Students Trish Cox said, “It seemed clear that in the past when it was mandatory, there were still students who made a choice not to participate which ended up hurting the students who were paired with them.” Although Cox was involved in the decision to make Heart Week optional, she said the student council provided input as well.

The student council seemed to have represented the student body’s opinions well, as many students voiced their support towards the Heart Week change. Sixth-grader Seth Tramazzo said students should be given “more freedom in their choice of what they want to do.” Similarly, Freshmen Neveah Grimes and Sasha Middleton praised the decision. Grimes believed it illustrated “a deeper respect to the student body,” with Middleton adding that students “who don’t want to participate don’t have to have… a weight on their shoulders that they have to do something.”

Junior Beyza Tumturk thought Cox’s change was a necessary one. Tumturk said the previous system was “unfair to people who bought gifts and…didn’t receive” in past years. Additionally, the change allowed Tumturk to avoid an inconvenient mall trip by opting out of this year’s Heart Week.

Tumturk wasn’t the only one who felt that in previous years, the obligation to purchase Heart Week gifts posed a challenge to borders. For this reason, Senior Jessie Kong chose to only participate in Heart Week one day this year. “I don’t have time to buy gifts because I’m a border,” she said. “[In previous years] I had to have time to buy… five gifts for five days.”

Though not a border, Sixth-grader Mateo Lopez also felt that the one-day participation option made his week more convenient. “I want to focus more on my homework… so I thought just to do one day would be more convenient for me,” Lopez said.

Likewise, Sophomore Vy Dinh was in favor of the change. She participated in the full Heart Week, and she felt that the optional aspect contributed to the fun. “Because people volunteer to do it, they give more effort and they give gifts to people and they want to receive a lot of gifts too, so it’s more fun,” Dinh said.

In describing the motivations behind the Heart Week alteration, Cox said, “Traditions are wonderful and every school has them, but every now and then it doesn’t hurt to to look at them with fresh eyes and try to make them even better than they were.”

Lyman was fully accepting of the change to the long-standing tradition. She believes the future of MacDuffie’s traditions—even those that have lasted for decades—rests in the hands of the students, not the administration. “If it’s not something that kids want to participate in anymore, you know, life changes,” Lyman said. “We’ve got a lot of traditions that have lasted a long time and that’s a good thing. They’ve lasted because kids wanted them to last.”

Kids still want Heart Week to last. This long-lasting tradition will likely continue for generations to come. According to Lopez, “It’s just a fun thing to do to try to get to know people, and I want to try it again.”