An excerpt from a February 14, 1884 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article which explains how the sweet but heathen holiday of Valentine’s Day became associated with a Christian saint, and recalls the (thankfully) lost art of the insulting “comic valentine”:
“Like many other Ecclesiastical festivals which have assumed strange social transformations, St. Valentine’s Day is chiefly remarkable for having no personal connection with St. Valentine. That respectable old bachelor bishop was beaten with clubs and beheaded in the third century, and if he is conscious of his subsequent fame he must enjoy the reflection that no author as well as no saint ever achieved such a posthumous reputation for what he had nothing to do with. The feasts of Pan and Juno, held in February, upon which among other hilarious ceremonies the names of pretty Roman girls of the period were put in a box, and the Roman dudes and greenhorns and old bachelors drew them out, suggested to the ever appropriate instincts of the Christian clergy the holding of them on a saint’s day. Poor old Bishop Valentine was in partibus at the time and had been canonized as well as clubbed and decapitated also at the middle of February, and his commemoration would do very well for the heathen pastime, which would thus acquire a Christian aroma. That is the process by which, in modern times, he has become the patron saint of postmen.
St. Valentine’s Day has become chiefly a joy to children, who await eagerly the postman’s coming with the welcome letters which are pictures as well. For the antiquated maid or corpulent bachelor, the valentine is scarcely a thing of beauty or joy. The meanness that would gratify its petty spite by anonymous insults through the mail on this literary deluge day would not deserve mention if this morning’s newspapers had not contained a curious and perhaps fatal caution against indulging one’s venom through the valentine. Two women in Philadelphia, who were next door neighbors, mutually accused each other of sending an insulting valentine. Each denied the charge, but neither accepted the denial. They fell upon each other tooth and nail, and, not content with bites and scratches, while one ran for a hatchet the other shot her with a pistol.”
Tags: St. Valentine