Return of Valentine’s Day Kisses: Blue Key Heads Celebrate Long Running Tradition with Love and Excitement

Blue Key Heads Myra Bhathena ’22 and Sam Elliott ’22 holding a small picnic in commons for Valentine’s Day.

Along with the fanfare of chocolate-covered strawberries and bouquets of roses, the Andover community celebrated Valentine’s Day with a special tradition, carried out by the Blue Key Heads. For this year’s Valentine’s Day programming, Blue Key Heads interacted with people of all grades, granting kisses and acting out their extravaganzas, which ranged from a violin performance to a serenade.

Two days before Valentine’s Day, Blue Key Heads sat in the foyer of Paresky Commons selling kisses and extravaganzas to students. The Blue Key Heads sent out a video to help promote it among those who were unfamiliar to the tradition. Cathy Cho ’22, one of the ten Blue Key Heads, described the video and the excitement surrounding the day.

Cho said, “[Valentine’s Day Kisses] is our favorite event because everyone has been looking forward to [it] since three weeks ago. We knew we had a standard to meet, an expectation the past Blue Key Heads set for us. So we were just really thrilled and excited to film this video and get everyone hyped up.”

Since Blue Key Heads consist exclusively of Seniors, Cho recognized the event as a way to meet new people, in particular underclassmen, and as one of the last chances to connect with members of the wider community.

Cho added, “I’m really excited to get to know people because [when I was] looking at my list, [there were] some people I didn’t even know. And I know I need to look them up in the directory, and it’s going to be hard with masks to identify people. But I’m excited to get to know underclassmen. It’s the final push where you can get to know people as a Senior. So I just want to use this opportunity to really create and foster new friendships, foster new bonds with these underclassmen.”

With the loud clamoring of laughter and music, many students welcomed the return of Valentine’s Day tradition. Lora Oh ’23, who entered Andover as a new Lower, commented on her first Valentine’s Day at Andover, especially the traditional extravaganza acts from different Blue Key Heads and on the new kissing policy that was implemented for this year.

“I really liked [the event]. I love the Blue Keys, they were super cool. When I was in Commons [and] they were doing one of the extravaganzas, they were running around singing ‘I Kissed A Girl’ in a kilt––it was really fun. We were all singing along [with them], which was really giving off the Valentine’s vibes. The tradition was really cute [and] nice. Also, having the stamps as an alternative than the physical kisses was a big improvement, in my opinion. People can get like, multiple all over their face, which I saw quite a few people had done. [Covid-19] has made us more aware of germs, and I personally wouldn’t be comfortable with Blue Key Heads kissing me,” said Oh.

The stamp kisses were newly implemented, deviating from the original tradition of giving physical kisses upon students’ purchases. Regarding consent and inclusivity brought up by both faculty and students, Blue Key Heads resorted to offering kiss marks using stamps instead of physical ones. While there were measures taken to get affirmative consent from both parties in the past, safety concerns with Covid-19 and matter of inclusivity had caused the shift according to Sam Elliott ’22, one of the Blue Key Heads.

“In the week before Valentine’s Day, students have the option to buy kisses for their friends from Blue Key Heads, as a charity fundraising event. But with [Covid-19], it was adapted a little bit, so we ended up doing red lip shaped stamps instead,” said Elliott.

Elliott explained how it has been an ongoing problem for the past few years. The administration would decide on various rules for different years, shifting boundaries on whether Blue Key Heads should give actual kisses or resorting to alternative acts such as using stamps.

Elliott said, “Obviously, when you have students paying for other students to kiss their friends, there are some clear red flags [and] issues that can be raised. But my [Junior] year, they adapted what it was, and they sent out an email clarifying the rules. The Blue Key Heads had to come up, ask if you wanted to kiss, ask if it was okay to kiss you on the cheek. And if the student was uncomfortable with that, they’d give him a Hershey kiss [instead], which I think worked pretty well and was very fun. I do worry a little bit that maybe students could feel peer pressured by their friends to say yes, which we don’t want happening. So I think there are problems and things to think about. But I think the stamps worked really well, and I hope we can just continue to work to make it a fun tradition.”