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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Image Credit: Flickr - C_pichler | CC BY-SA 2.0

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

“Without Valentine’s Day, February would be, well, January.”

– comedian Jim Gaffigan

“I swear I couldn’t love you more than I do right now, and yet I know I will tomorrow.”

– author Leo Christopher

“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect; you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.”

– author Jodi Picoult

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

– Jesus, in John 15:13

“Love is a lot like a toothache. It doesn’t show up on X-rays, but you know it’s there.”

– comedian George Burns

“Love is the only thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it makes the end so easy.”

Louisa May Alcott

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”

– poet Robert Frost

“We claim to love our fellow citizens while we hand government ever more power over their lives, hopes, and pocketbooks. We’ve erected what Margaret Thatcher derisively termed the ‘nanny state,’ in which adults are pushed around, dictated to, hemmed in, confiscated from, and smothered with allegedly good intentions as if they are still children.”

– Yours truly

And finally, one of the funnier ones from an unknown author: “Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning, all you need are two hearts and a diamond. By the end, you’re looking for a club and a spade.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For Additional Information, See:

The Love of Power Vs the Power of Love by Lawrence W. Reed

Cultural Appropriation is Love by TJ Brown

Profits Vs Love by Russell Roberts

Loving Only Lasts with a Growth Mindset by Barry Brownstein

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's Interim President, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019).