Another Bloody Valentine’s Article

by Kris Olson

Believe it or not, I have gone four straight years without receiving a singing Presidents Day gram. Words cannot describe the depression I feel the third Monday of every February when I don’t get to feel the excitement of having a quartet of people gather around my cafeteria table to sing me “Hail to the Chief.”

I guess I shouldn’t get too down, because apparently there’s another big holiday in February, namely, Valentine’s Day. In fact, during the festivities this past Sunday, two questions that have plagued historians and educators for centuries went through my mind:

1. What exactly is the history of Valentine’s Day?

2. Who cares?

So I did some research. According to OutOfIdeas, Valentine was a Roman priest in the third century. Valentine got his name from the Latin word “valentinus” which translates literally into English as “Larry, doesn’t Wal-Mart have any funny cards anymore?”

During this same time, Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than married men, so the emperor outlawed marriage for potential soldiers, a law known then as “Ne Roga, Ne Denarra.” Valentine, realizing the decree’s injustice, continued to perform marriages secretly. When his actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that Valentine be executed. At least he didn’t have to go see “Dear John” later.

One legend says that while in prison, Valentine wrote a love note to a girlfriend in which he coined the phrase “from your valentine.” Unfortunately, the price of postage stamps had risen to 45 cents the day before so his sweetheart never received the letter.

Valentine was made a saint after his death, and in A.D. 498, Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day. Some believe this date was set to commemorate Valentine’s death. Others think that the Christian church wanted to replace the pagan Lupercalia festival. Still others are convinced it has something to do with Black History Month.

There’s more to the history of Feb. 14 than popes and lame love notes from prison, however. In 1929, two Chicago gangs clashed in an incident known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The confrontation involved the Southside Gang, led by Al “Scarface” Capone, fighting against the Northside Gang led by, George “George Moran” Moran. Capone’s men, disguised as police officers, gunned down seven of Moran’s men in a Chicago parking garage, earning Roger Corman his first Oscar for directing.

Although these stories all end in people getting slaughtered, the Valentine tradition remains strong. According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion Valentine cards are purchased each year, 85 percent by women. I’m guessing the rest are bought by the male characters on “Glee.”

Happy Lupercalia!


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