Every February 14th florists go crazy filling orders for flowers to be delivered locally, nationally, or even internationally. Some flowers are picked up to be delivered personally by eager boyfriends, hopeful husbands, or expectant lovers. Jewelry commercials start before the middle of January with diamond hearts, ruby hearts, gold hearts, silver hearts, and variations of hearts. Some people wait for that ring that signifies the commitment of a lifetime of love. School children bring colorful cartoon Valentine’s Day cards to school for classmates and teachers. But does anyone really know what the day is about and how it started?
On February 14th somewhere around the year 278 A.D. when Claudius II was the Emperor of Rome a little known priest named Valentin took exception to one of the ruler’s laws. Claudius was having a hell of a time getting soldiers to join his military. It seems they were more interested in getting married and having families than going off to die in some battle. Claudius decided the solution to this problem was to ban all engagements and marriages. Valentin thought this was unfair and continued to perform marriages in secret. Needless to say when Claudius found out he was angry and he decreed Valentin should be executed. The priest was arrested and brought before the Prefect of Rome for sentencing. The Prefect had him beaten with clubs until he died and then he was beheaded. Legend has it this took place on February 14th, making Valentin a martyr. Eventually Catholics made Valentin a saint and set his day as February 14th. However further investigation reveals there are about three legends of St Valentine and the date of February 14th. To top it all off the date was originally the Feast of Lupercalia which was a pagan festival of love. That was celebrated by having women place their names into a box and then men would pick the names leaving their romance to chance. Needless to say this did not sit well with Catholics who viewed pagans as, well, pagan.
So in 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius did away with the pagan holiday and instead declared the date to be St. Valentine’s Day commemorating Valentin. All this is well and good. But the story doesn’t end there. Somewhere along the line florists, candy makers, and greeting card companies saw a moneymaker and decided to capitalize on the pagans, the Catholics, and poor old martyr Valentin. So, every February 14th we are deluged with flowers, chocolates (apparently an aphrodisiac although that might be a candy company creation as well), and greeting cards. Children and adults rush about proclaiming undying love for others and giving tokens of their affection.
Another exciting event associated with this date is the notorious St Valentine’s Day Massacre. On February 14th, 1929 during America’s prohibition of alcohol four Chicago gangsters disguised as policemen shot and killed seven members of a rival gang. It was quite a bloody event. It would probably have been more fitting if they had beheaded the seven rivals but the odds weren’t good for that.
There have been other historical events said to have occurred on February 14th in various years. In 1779 Captain Cook is said to have been killed in Hawaii on this date. During the Civil War in 1864 the Union General Sherman marched into Meridian, Mississippi. Penicillin was discovered on this date in 1929. There are many more interesting events said to have taken place on February 14th but some things need to be left for others to explore. (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-st-valentines-day-massacre).
What happens to the singles out there who are not in line for the desperately desired “ring” (my precious)? Singles Awareness Day is February 15th. The first mention f this seems to have been in 2005 and it apparently is growing in popularity. (http://www.singlesawareness.com/) This is the day when all singles can declare they are unattached and happy about it. Celebrations ensue with parties, exchanging gifts with other singles, sending yourself flowers, buying yourself candy, and in general declaring single-hood to be perfectly fine. Of course the question does arise, is this a way for singles to get together with the goal of not being single on the following Valentine’s Day? Could the florists, candy makers, and card manufacturers have come up with a way to make more sales? Perhaps I am being somewhat suspicious.
But whatever the reason for either Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day I am quite happy to receive gifts from my husband then go out on the 15th and buy all the leftover Valentine’s candy that is on sale. Have a Happy!