Sunday, February 7, 2010

Valentine's Day--The Good And The Bad

The Good:

Valentine's Day is that time of the year when we give cards, flowers, candy, and other tokens of affection to loved ones in the name of St. Valentine. But who is St. Valentine and why do we celebrate his holiday every year?

One legend says Valentine was a priest in the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Claudius ordered him put to death.

Another story has Valentine killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured.

And then there's the story that says Valentine was the one who sent the first 'Valentine Greeting' while he was in prison. He fell in love with a girl, possibly the jailor's daughter, who visited him while he was imprisoned. Before his death, he wrote her a letter and signed it 'From your Valentine,' an expression still used today.

St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, is a combination of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. One theory says we celebrate Valentine's Day in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial which probably occurred around 270A.D., while others believe that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'Christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday. An estimated 2.6 billion Christmas cards are sent each year. Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia in addition to the United States.

The Bad:

The St. Valentine's Day massacre—the most spectacular gangland slaying in mob history.

Al Capone ('known' to be the mastermind, but there was never enough evidence to charge him with the crime) had arranged for his chief rival, Chicago mobster George "Bugs" Moran, and most of Moran's North Side Gang, to be eliminated on February 14, 1929. The plan was simple and deviously clever, yet Capone's primary target escaped any injury. Capone distanced himself from the execution of the plan (and the execution of his rivals) by spending the time at his home in Florida.

A bootlegger loyal to Capone was to draw Moran and his gang to a warehouse with the promise of a shipment of smuggled whiskey, the delivery set for 10:30AM on Valentine's Day.

The morning of February 14 was cold and snowy. A group of Moran's men waited for Bugs at the red brick warehouse at 2122 North Clark Street. Moran was running late. When his car turned the corner onto Clark Street, he spotted a police wagon pulling up to the warehouse. Assuming it was a raid, he watched as five men, three of them dressed in police uniforms, entered the building. Moran and the two men with him, immediately left the area.

Inside the warehouse, Moran's men were confronted by the hit men disguised as police. Assuming it was a routine bust, they followed instructions when ordered to line up against the wall. The hit men opened fire with Thompson submachine guns, killing six of the seven men immediately. The seventh man, with twenty-two bullet wounds, survived the attack but died after arriving at the hospital.

The newspapers instantly picked up on the crime, dubbing it the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." The story appeared on front pages around the country, making Capone a national celebrity. But to his dismay, this new found celebrity also brought a new level of attention from federal law enforcement.

No one was ever tried for the most spectacular slaying in mob history. The site of the warehouse, torn down in 1967, continues to draw tourists from around the world.


susan said...

Thanks for this article. We have watched The ST. Valentine's Massacure so many times I think I know it by heart. It is always on somewhere around this time of year. I like the way we celebrate the day in the present age..and not back when. I like the good ideas for the day. CHOCOLATE CANDY FLOWERS, CHOCOLATE CANDY, JEWELRY, CHOCOLATE CANDY.... get my point of what is a favorite of mine. ha ha I wish you a great Valentine's day too. susan L.

Samantha Gentry said...

Susan: Hmmm, now let me see if I have this right. You think chocolate might be a good gift for Valentine's Day? :)

I think you might be right!