Originally known as St Valentine's Day, it was a celebration of the Catholic martyrs born on this day. The holiday was rather confusing however, as the Catholic Church originally recognized eleven St Valentines, only two of whom were given homage on February 14th. Perhaps even more confusing (and wonderfully ironic) is that the holiday dedicated to the concept of romantic love was originally designed to celebrate the birth of a Roman Catholic priest (Valentine of Rome) and a Catholic bishop (Valentine of Terni), both of whom were sworn to celibacy.
Of course growing up in Chicago, we were never allowed to forget that of 1929, when six members of the George "Bugs" Moran gang and Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer were gunned down in a Chicago garage in the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre". The primary target, Bugs Moran, managed to be absent from the event and survived to see many more St. Valentine's Days before dying of cancer in 1957. Credit for the "hit" was given to Al Capone and his henchmen, though no one was actually convicted of the crime. Al himself, in further holiday irony, died of cardiac arrest in 1947 likely linked to Syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease) that he had contracted years before.
Today however, anyone showing up with nothing but a card (or a machine gun) in hand will likely receive a chilly reception on this winter holiday of romance. Like many other gift-giving holidays, rampant consumerism has long since taken over the true spirit of the day. Candy, teddy bears, lingerie (pajamas for those of you of a less libidinous inclination), flowers, and dinner are now the expected minimum offerings to show a loved one you care. Anyone with true feelings for a significant other on this day however, will cough up enough for jewelry or a car (nothing says love like a new pickup truck, after all).
Now just to prove that I am not entirely without a heart where this day is concerned (no jokes about conservatives here please), I will point out that I got married for the first time on Valentine's Day. I'm sure that there are some cynics out there who might say that I did so, not out of a true sense of romance, but instead in a miserly effort to save myself from having to buy the woman in question jewelry that year. Others might see more of a long term strategy in combining the future burdens of both a Valentines Day and Anniversary presents in every year after (but who would believe that I could be that clever).
In the spirit of full faith and disclosure, I will also point out that I admitted to the date of that first marriage early in my relationship to my 2nd wife, thereby eliminating Valentines Day as a romantic holiday for us. (She didn't want to celebrate the anniversary of my first marriage, go figure ...)
In fact, I would have to say that anyone who places all of their romantic eggs in this one basket can make no such similar claim. I will go further and say that any man who only shows that he cares on Valentines Day can make no claim to manhood at all, and any relationship which requires a day to remind two people of the love and affection that they feel for each other is probably doomed already.
I will therefore call out this Hallmark Holiday for what it is, a sham and a humbug, ill used to celebrate what true romance is all about; and a weak excuse to firm up the bottom lines of candy makers, jewelers and florists. Having now gotten that off of my chest, and while wearing my heart on my sleeve ... Happy Valentine's Day.