The modern view of Valentine’s Day in the United States is a far cry from its murky origins in the Middle Ages, one of debauchery, animal sacrifices, and martyred priests. How did we get from a Catholic relic of a mysterious saint to valentine’s day cards, flowers, candy, and other delectable gifts? A holiday that is a day of romance meant to convey a message of love for a special someone.
A History of Valentine’s Day:
Some theorists believe the origins of Valentine began in ancient Roman culture with a pagan fertility festival, Lupercalia, that predated Christianity. Held during February, the pagan holiday wasn’t hearts and flowers. The hides of sacrificed animals were torn into strips and dipped in blood. Priests slapped women with the bloody hides, believing it would increase a woman’s fertility. A ceremony that certainly gives new meaning to the predominant color of red in the modern-day holiday. It wasn’t until the 3rd century that February 14th became associated with the word Valentine.
According to historians, the Catholic Church has recognized three priests named Valentine, who died in February during the 3rd century. It was a time when Christians were still persecuted. It is unknown whether the legend’s beginning can be attributed to one priest or a compilation of multiple stories over time.
The most well-known is a priest who lived in ancient Rome under the rule of Emperor Claudius II during the third century AD. The emperor banned marriages as a way to improve his army. Roman emperor Claudius II believed married soldiers were bad soldiers because they were distracted. Saint Valentine not only ministered to the Christians but also defied Claudius’ edict by performing marriages, particularly for the Christian soldiers as he believed married young men created strong family members who had a desire to see the war ended quickly so they could return home. When the emperor discovered Saint Valentine’s clandestine practices, the priest was imprisoned and sentenced to death. According to the legend, during his imprisonment, he restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. On February 14, 269 A.D., Saint Valentine was beheaded. It is written he left a note for the jailer’s daughter, signed, “Your Valentine.” Many European churches claim the Relics of Saint Valentine, including the skull.
St. Valentine in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome, Italy
It would seem myth and mystery not only shroud the origins of what we know as Valentine’s Day but also the saint for which the holiday is named. Whatever the truth in this murky past, February 14th became a religious ceremony marking the execution of the Christian Martyr Saint Valentine. Henceforth remembered as St. Valentine’s Day.
It wasn’t until around the 14th and 15th centuries that February 14th took on a new meaning. The 14th century was the beginning of the Renaissance period with a revival of philosophy, art, and literature. It is hardly surprising February 14th came to be associated with romance and love.
A belief that the date was the first day of birds’ mating season added to the illusion of romance. This notion was immortalized in a poem written in 1375 by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, also known as the “Father of Literature.” In “Parlement of Foules,” a poem about birds choosing their mates, Chaucer wrote:
“For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,”-Geoffrey Chaucer
In Recent Years:
If you don’t like Valentine’s Day, Geoffrey Chaucer could be your culprit. Some 600 years later, his “Seynt Valentynes day” reference would become a twenty-six billion dollar big business holiday. With the advent of the printing press in the 15th century, cards could be printed. By the 18th century, Valentine’s Day was a full-fledged occasion marked by red roses, candy hearts, and greeting cards.
Now the modern-day celebration in the middle of February is categorized by romantic dinners, finding true love, Valentine’s Day cards (with a message of love inside of course!), and usually small gifts and Chocolates. It has truly become a holiday of hoping for a love letter, marriage proposals, and a celebration of love. Many people go all out on this holiday of love, crafting romantic messages in handmade paper cards, filled with messages of love and happiness. It’s somewhat hard to believe that the true origin of Valentine cards has such a dark and auspicious beginning in roman mythology.
A Modern Day Celebration of St. Valentine gone rogue:
In the modern era, February 14th hasn’t always been a day of love and romance. It certainly wasn’t love in the air on the streets of Chicago in 1929. Instead, the day would become known as Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
During the prohibition era, rival gangs ruled the city, grabbing their share of the lucrative profits from bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution. It was a high-stakes racket with even politicians and cops on the payroll.
The South Side Gang, known as the Chicago Outfit, a sixty million dollar operation, was under the control of Chicago kingpin Al Capone. His main rival was the North Side Gang, run by another Chicago kingpin, George Moran, along with Hymie Weiss. Known for his violence and instability, Moran was nicknamed “Bugs.” It was short for buggy, a slang term for a crazy person.
For years, trouble had brewed between the two organizations even before the deadly events on February 14. In 1925, in what would be the first of many attempts, “Bugs” Moran and Weiss attempted to kill Capone in a restaurant on the south side of Chicago. A battle for control of organized crime raged on city streets despite several attempts to establish a truce.
It came to a head on February 14, 1929, when four gunmen, two dressed in police uniforms, entered a garage owned by the North Side Gang. Seven men were rounded up and, while facing a wall, were brutally gunned down. The only survivors were a dog and one victim. Despite his fourteen bullet wounds, the man survived for a few hours, though he refused to identify the killers. Capone was suspected of the hit but never charged for the murder of seven men, all connected to George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang. The hit brought about a stalemate in the war between Capone and “Bugs” Moran.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Book Pairings: Love, murder and all-around mayhem.
Valentine Villainy by Kathleen Suzette
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that’s a great big tease. All those flowers and candy make you think spring is right around the corner, but because it’s still technically winter, there’s going to be snow. And murder. Because what’s love without murder?Step into the world of amateur sleuth Allie and her trusty sidekick, Lucy, as they unravel the mystery surrounding the murder of a wealthy young mother. The victim, known for her sharp tongue and mean streak, was killed in the comfort of her own home, and it’s up to Allie and Lucy to gather the clues and crack the case before the killer strikes again.
But as the clues start to add up, things get tricky. Allie finds herself tiptoeing through a maze of suspects, each with a motive for murder. From the angry neighbor to the disgruntled stepson, anyone could have done the deed.
Get ready to cuddle up with a hot cup of tea and a side of mystery, because the stakes are high, and the gossip is hot in this cozy murder mystery!
Fatal Wines & Valentines by Trixie Silvertale
A Valentine’s extravaganza. A crushing murder. Will our psychic sleuth uncork the clues before the wine turns blood-red?
Mitzy Moon is hoping to subtly celebrate the heart-filled holiday. She’d love a murder-free dinner with her hubby and a cute box of chocolates. But when a mysterious gilded invite arrives at her door, her simple plans could sour.
Ghost-ma threatens to haunt Mitzy into eternity if she skips the social event of the season. Dressed to the nines, the newlyweds head to the romantic gala. But instead of fine wines, they’re faced with a shocking homicide and an overflowing list of suspects.
Can Mitzy and Erick burst a killer’s bubble, or will this case take a deadly spill?
Fatal Wines and Valentines is the fourth book in the hilarious paranormal cozy mystery series, Harper and Moon Investigations, a spinoff from the popular Mitzy Moon Mysteries. If you like snarky heroines, supernatural intrigue, and a dash of romance, then you’ll love Trixie Silvertale’s perplexing puzzle.