February 14, Every Year!

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Everyone Knows February 14th is St. Valentine’s Day,
but why?

The most commonly accepted image of St. Valentine
is by Garret Morphy, an Irish painter,
who is considered Ireland’s first professional artist.

Why? Because Valentine was beheaded on February 14th, around the year A.D. 270.

The Story of Valentine
In the times that Valentine lived, Claudius the Second (also known as Claudius the Cruel) was the emperor of Rome. Throughout his reign the Romans were, often, unwilling opponents of many warring civilizations. As the wars continued, Roman men began refusing to serve in the military legions. Claudius thought the reason was the devotion they had for wives and families; hence to solve the problem he forbade all unions between men and women under certain ages.

Valentine, a priest, considered this to be an injustice against nature and ignored the emperor’s ruling and continued to perform marriages in secret. When Valentine’s exploits were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be arrested and put to death.

The details are gory, but the story was widely published because, as he waited for his sentence to be completed, Valentine wrote a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter that was found in his cell after his death. The daughter had become Valentine’s only friend and he signed it, “From Your Valentine.”

In truth, the exact origins and identity of St. Valentine are unclear. One source proclaims that throughout the history of the Roman church three martyred priest were named Valentine. One was the Roman who is personified in this legend, a second was a bishop in Italy, and a third was the cleric who oversaw a parish in north Africa.

The controversy ended in A.D. 496 when Pope Gelasius decided that Valentine should be beatified, and that February 14th should be celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine and his Irish connection
Saint Valentine’s connection to Ireland is so strong it is difficult to believe that no connection existed before 1836. It was then that an Irish priest named John Spratt was invited to preach a sermon in Rome. Spratt’s theme was brotherhood and love thy neighbor; it was widely acclaimed by his Christian audience and the sermon was brought to the attention of Pope Gregory.

Before Spratt’s return to Ireland, Gregory presented him with a Papal Letter of Provenance and a relic of Saint Valentine. The relic is now among the holy treasurers in the Carmelite Church of Dublin.


Valentine Postcard collectors
have thousands of reasons to celebrate. Did you know that the Tuck company published more than a dozen sets with Valentine themes? Other postcard publishers did too. Collectors should also know that Valentine cards were often used by advertisers of everything from sausages to cigars. The gallery that follows shows a few of the most popular.

A Tuck Valentine Sampler

Valentine’s Day is not for everyone
If you are a curmudgeon and don’t love anyone, here are some other things you can celebrate on February 14th.

  • If you like King Henry II, you could celebrate that Pope Benedict VIII crowned him the Holy Roman Emperor in 1014. Egad, lots of people say that popes are without blame.

  • If you are a real “Oscar the Grouch” and really dislike people you don’t know, you could celebrate the Black Death Massacre of 1349.

  • If you are a fan of Emperor Charles V, Archduke of Austria, you could party with his army that captured the city of Ghent in 1540 and executed those who rebelled against the emperor’s new taxes.

  • Do you like superstar royal women? If you do, you could mope over not living in England in 1677 when the citizens of Britain bestowed the crowns of the Empire on William II and Mary II. She was the ultimate goody-two-shoes of Europe, but you had better not cross her path.

  • If you dislike biting through the skin of an apple you could rejoice that in 1803 an apple peeler was patented by Moses Coats of Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

  • If you’re a 20th century grumble bunny there are lots of things to hate and events to condemn: one could be the 1907 founding of the New York City Fox Hunting Club; the 1919 corporate founding of the United Parcel Service, whose employees still illegally park their trucks in the streets of America.

  • And let’s not forget there were two world wars in the 20th century. In the ‘20s, Al Capone was the first public enemy of the people, in 1932 the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show debuted on CBS radio that popularize making men the fools of everyday life. Motown came to be in 1959 and in 1963 the first communication satellite was launched, leading the way to the cell-phone generation.


February 14th is International Ferris Wheel Day.

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Nancy, I appreciate your great sense of humor. Thank you!


Cynics can always celebrate February 14 by sending (or simply reading) the cards known as vinegar valentines.

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