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IPFS News Link • Holidays

The Origins of Valentine's Day and Some Reflections on the Holiday

•, Lawrence W. Reed

Where does Valentine's Day come from? A greeting card company or a candy company? Neither, but I'm sure it's one of their favorite holidays.

Or was it Al Capone? He's the likely culprit responsible for the infamous Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago on February 14, 1929. Seven members of the Bugs Moran gang were shot dead that day, but that's not the origin of the holiday either.

It's one of those things that goes back so far that its origins are probably not widely known. I had long forgotten where it came from so in preparation for this column, I looked it up.

Turns out that it all began with a Christian martyr in the late Roman Empire, a man (later canonized as a saint) named Valentine. From a mix of truth and legend, scholars believe he ministered to fellow Christians persecuted by the authorities. Some think he performed wedding ceremonies for fellow Christians in defiance of imperial law. In any event, it was five centuries later before Valentine's veneration came to be associated with February 14.

Over the last 500 years, the day evolved into a celebration of love. Plus cards and candy. We don't usually think of Valentine the man on this date, but it's likely he would approve of at least the love part.

At my age, I personally don't do much to note the holiday. I send a Valentine card or two, but I eat as much candy on the 14th of February as I do any other day. I do, however, appreciate some things that others have said about Valentine's Day and the love it has come to mean. So rather than say more about it in my own words, allow me to share some from those others.

(I could not in every instance confirm from a primary source that the person to whom a quote is credited wrote or said it. So pay more attention to the sentiments expressed than to whom they are attributed.)

Taylor Swift sure makes a lot of headlines these days, so let's start with something she wrote 14 years ago in her song, "Mine." It reads, "You're the best thing that's ever been mine." I guess that would presently be Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs. Here's some more:

"We look forward to the day when the power of love replaces the love of power. Then the world will know true peace."

– British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone