Valentines for Some of Us

Dear St. Valentine,


This is that time of year when roses, chocolates, and Cupid’s arrows cause us to remember St. Valentine’s Day. But the history of St. Valentine’s Day is obscure at best.

The ancient Romans celebrated a mid-February festival called Lupercalia to keep out evil and celebrate fertility. One legend has it that Emperor Claudius II cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome because he believed that bachelors made better soldiers for his army. But St. Valentine refused to follow the state’s edict banning marriages, and continued to perform ceremonies in secret. While imprisoned for this circa 270 a.d., he struck up a friendship with the jailer’s daughter. The night before his execution, he wrote a note to her and signed it, “From Your Valentine.”

The first greeting card was probably a Chinese invention, but the first commercial valentine greeting cards were produced in the United States in 1840 by a teenage girl, Esther Howland. This tradition has continued to grow, and now more than 180 million valentine cards are sent every year. According to the Greeting Card Association, that makes Valentine’s Day the second-most celebrated holiday in America.

Even gangsters celebrate Valentine’s Day in their own grisly fashion. Al Capone arranged for the slaying of his enemy Bugs Moran’s gang in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.

But even with all of these secular observations of St. Valentine’s Day, the Catholic Church removed it from its liturgical calendar as one of its feast days in 1969. (Perhaps it survives in limbo?)

Nonetheless, St. Valentine, I am asking you to deliver valentines to the following homegrown organizations for which we carry a torch.

››› Target Corporation. Target is a success, with more than 350,000 employees and annual revenues in excess of $59 billion. A valentine to Target for revitalizing the Nicollet Mall, for putting up with success-envy carping about its world headquarters, and for its continued effort to develop sites in the Twin Cities, including its proposal for Highway 610. Target’s involvement in the community and its charitable contributions of 5 percent of income deserve a lot of Cupid’s arrows.

››› Hubbard Broadcasting Company. Hearts and flowers to Hubbard, which built its first radio station in Minnesota in 1923, and employs more than 1,200 people. The company generated more than $160 million in sales last year. The Hubbard family has been giving to this community for 80 years, sponsoring such programs as the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Operation Uplink, which provides phone cards for military families. Hubbard is one of those rare companies—a family-owned (and locally owned) media company. Special roses included for Stanley Hubbard because he reads this column.

››› Northwest Airlines. A huge valentine to Northwest Airlines, which truly makes the Twin Cities an economic hub. Without Northwest, we could be a cold and forgotten Omaha. The air carrier employs more than 31,000 employees, generating more than $12 million in revenues. It gives travelers unparalleled access to more than 250 cities worldwide by direct flight, and serves more than 1,000 cities with its travel partners. Northwest was established in this state in 1926, and we should give it our fondest regards the next time we travel.

››› Medtronic. Medtronic, the world leader in cardiac device research was established in 1949, employs more than 37,000 people worldwide, and has more than $12 billion in sales annually. During the 58 years the company has been in existence, more than $350 million dollars have been spent on philanthropy. Medtronic is as close to our hearts as a valentine can get.

››› The Wild. Finally, because athletic activities are such a part of our quality of living in Minnesota, more hearts and flowers go to our four professional sports teams. Send a special valentine to the Minnesota Wild and Bob Naegele, Jr., to the “team of 18,000,” and to retired center Wes Walz for his remarkable work ethic.


Vance K. Opperman
Hopeless Romantic

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