Friday Mailbag

Every once in while I like to go through search engine terms and occasional emails and toss out answers to questions.

email1. Is Titanic Switch Theory True?
The short answer: no. This particular conspiracy theory has been out there for a long time. It has been resurrected from time to time but once Titanic was found, it was easy to disprove. While both ships had similarities, there were some important differences that were easy to spot. Plus to switch ships would require a level of secrecy that would be nearly impossible to pull off.

2. Did Loraine Allison die on Titanic?

3. Why Did Loraine Allison Die?
At one point both mother and daughter were on a lifeboat but the mother choose to get off to find her husband. She also was trying to find baby Trevor.  So both parents died along with Allison.

4. Is Titanic II Really Going To Be Built?
Quite likely. It has big money behind it with Clive Palmer, a Chinese shipyard that will build it, and plans for its construction and fitting out being done. It also being supported by the Chinese government (not by money as far as I know but that is possible)for tourism and propaganda use. There is a reason they are building a Titanic simulator in a landlocked province. They want not only Chinese tourists but ones from all over the world as well.

5. (Battlestar Galactica)What are the differences in characters between old and new show?
The original show characters had a more upbeat tone and generally likable. The new version made the characters dark and in many cases unlikable. One thing I heard on various boards and commentaries on season 3 and later season 4 is the characters had gotten so unlikeable that perhaps the Cylons ought to wipe them out! Take the case of Colonel Tigh. On the original show he was tough but fair second in command to Commander Adama. The new show took its cue from In Harm’s Way in which a character played by Kirk Douglas drank too much, had a wife cheating on him (she dies with her lover at Pearl Harbor), and much later commits rape. Saul Tigh is loyal to Adama but drinks too much, gets into fights with junior officers like Starbuck, often questions the judgment of his commanding officer and junior officers, is part of a secret posse that kills those who collaborated with the Cylons on New Caprica, and kills his wife when he discovers she handed vital information over to the Cylons. That pretty much shows the stark difference in character depictions between the two shows.  And why I think people began to dislike such characters.

6. Did some sort of lunar event make Titanic sink?
There are those that speculate that a combination of things may have contributed to having more ice floating around at the time and making it difficult to see Titanic on the horizon. Such conjectures have some basis in fact but whether they are true or not is still up for debate.

7. Was Titanic really British owned?
Some still try to make the claim the United States had no legal jurisdiction to hear the salvage case on RMS Titanic. They generally cite two facts. One that RMS Titanic is a British registered ship flying the British flag. Second is that the company that owned it, White Star Line, was a British company though a subsidiary of International Mercantile & Marine (IP), an American holding company that was bankrolled by J.P.Morgan & Co. They tend to point out that because the ownership was not direct but through either a holding company or some other creation that RMS Titanic cannot be said to be an American owned ship. An interesting but ultimately fruitless argument. The ultimate owner of White Star Line was an American company, even if it did not exercise direct day-to-day operational control.

8. You really do not believe in ghosts do you?
I have no idea whether they exist or not but when studying possible hauntings one must look rationally at the facts. It is easy to be fooled by sights, sounds, and odors we cannot understand. Also the power of suggestion often comes into play when someone says it is a possible haunted exhibit. One must first gather evidence from people, examine carefully the place where it allegedly occurs, and test possible explanations. Sometimes it is easy and other times takes a bit of detective work to find out why you hear strange noises from the basement (a boiler not working right) or the sound of a child crying from an empty home or open structure (kittens mewing can sound like babies when the conditions are right), or if things are suddenly moving around (often surveillance reveals someone moving things about or vibrations cause things fall from shelves).

That’s all for now!

Titanic Deficit For Cork County Council

Image:Petr Kratochvil(
Image:Petr Kratochvil(

According to Irish Examiner, the Cork County Council will be inheriting a debt of nearly €97,000($132,000US) from Cobh Town Council.

The money relates largely to commemorative events held in April 2012, plus associated legal expenses, including a €20,000 administration fee charged to the event organisers operating on behalf of Cobh Town council. The deficit will pass to the county council on June 1 after the town council is abolished.

Not small change. Since nearly all the events were free, it meant the city had to come up with the money from its own pockets, donations, investments, and grants (otherwise known as tax money). The company contracted to put on many of the events, Creating Shows Ltd, is owed the €96,790, which was reduced due to grants. One Cobh councillor said the cost was “cheap” in comparison to the international exposure that Cobh got during the Titanic centenary. But the mayor has a different view:

Mayor John Mulvihill said the company “honoured its contract in full” and organised events “very professionally”. However, from a council perspective, he cautioned any future local administration to “be wise” if getting involved with similar undertakings.

Well he is quite right. They rang up quite a bill for this and it took a lot of doing to get it down to what it is now. Cheap is not the word I would use.

Source: Council Hit With €97k Titanic Events Bill(27 Feb 2014,Irish Examiner)


Titanic’s Sister Ship HMHS Britannic Was Launched 100 Years Ago Today

HMHS Britannic seen during World War I. Image:public domain
HMHS Britannic seen during World War I.
Image:public domain

HMHS Britannic was the third ship in the Olympic class ocean liner built by White Star Line, and the sister ship of RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic. Due to World War I, she was never used as a transatlantic passenger liner and ended being used as a hospital ship in 1915. On 21 Nov 1916, the ship was sunk likely by an underwater mine off the Greek island of Kea. Of the 1.066 people aboard, 30 lost their lives. Since it sank in shallow waters, the wreck is easily accessible to divers and numerous expeditions have taken place. Although the wreck is in Greek waters, the British have designated it as a war grave and both governments must approve expeditions to the wreck. In 1996 the wreck itself was sold to author Simon Mills whose desire is to leave it as is.

1. HMHS Britannic(Wikipedia)
2. Nova Online: Titanic’s Lost Sister

Sunday Titanic News: Rostron Cup At Titanic Pigeon Forge, More Details On Chinese Titanic Simulator

Mrs. J.J. "Molly" Brown presenting trophy cup award to Capt. Arthur Henry Rostron, for his service in the rescue of the Titanic. Photo:Public Domain (US Library of Congress, digital id# cph 3c21013)
Mrs. J.J. “Molly” Brown presenting trophy cup award to Capt. Arthur Henry Rostron, for his service in the rescue of the Titanic.
Photo:Public Domain (US Library of Congress, digital id# cph 3c21013)

1. Molly Brown Subject Of Titanic Exhibit(22 Feb 2014,Knoxville News Sentinel)
Items that once belonged to the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” are now on exhibit at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge. The museum also is showing a 1912 loving cup that Brown gave Carpathia Capt. Arthur Rostron in thanks for saving her and 711 other Titanic survivors. That cup is on exhibit until March 30. The cup belongs to Rostron descendants and will be auctioned in Boston on April 24. At that time, bidding is expected to top $200,000.

2. Titanic Attraction(22 Feb 2014,The Star Online)
A Chinese firm plans to spend US$165mil (RM551.26mil) building a full-scale replica of the Titanic as the main attraction for a theme park. Little known Chinese energy company Seven Star Energy Investment said the replica, which is expected to cost 1 billion yuan (US$165mil), will be the main attraction for a planned theme park located at Sichuan, a landlocked province famous for its spicy food. Construction of the ship, which is 270m long, is expected to be completed in two years and will be based on designs of the Titanic’s sister ship, RMS Olympic, which was in service from 1911 to 1935, the SCMP reported.

Quote from story:“We chose to rebuild the Titanic in China so that such spirit can be promoted or inherited in the east.”(Seven Star chief executive Su Shaojun)

Down Memory Lane:Battlestar Galactica(1978)

Poster for Battlestar Galactica (1978)
Richard Hatch (L) as Captain Apollo, Lorne Greene (C) as Commander Adama, Dirk Benedict (L) as Lt. Starbuck
Image: Universal Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

In the rankings of fan favorites for science fiction/fantasy tv there are two main categories: the good and the awful. The rest, as John Kenneth Galbraith notes, fall into that third category of “guilty pleasure.” It is admittedly a subjective category but allows one to express that some shows had something worthy of watching but failed in its delivery. And the original Battlestar Galactica fits into that mode. Derided by many as a rip off of Star Wars (which itself blended elements of many known motifs and the famous Japanese movie The Seven Samurai), it still maintains a loyal following to this day even after the re-imagined series has run its course.

Series creator Glen Larson was a master of timing from all accounts. He had many shows under his belt that were based upon successful movies. Although the seeds of Battlestar Galactica were thought about before George Lucas came along, the popularity of space adventures meant the time was right for something different. And Battlestar Galactica offered to do just that. About the same time there were popular writers arguing that extraterrestrials visited Earth in its distant past leaving their mark in ancient civilizations. His show would combine both a space opera aspect and feed into that theme. The opening credits had this narration to offer up this tease for the audience:

There are those who believe…that life here began out there, far across the Universe…with tribes of humans…who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians…or the Toltecs…or the Mayans…that they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids…or the lost civilizations of Lemuria…or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man…who even now fight to survive—somewhere beyond the heavens! (There was a slightly different ending for the movie version .)

With big money behind the effort at ABC and Universal, the show drew good acting talent along with people who worked on Star Wars like John Dykstra (although he would leave the series later due to conflicts about the quality of the episodes). Lorne Greene (of Ponderosa fame) was cast as Commander Adama. Richard Hatch as Captain Apollo, Dirk Benedict at Lt. Starbuck, Maren Jensen as Adama’s daughter Lt. Athena (a bridge officer), Terry Carter as Colonel Tigh, Lew Ayres as President Adar, Ray Milland as Sire Uri, and John Calicos as the treacherous Count Baltar, and Wilfred Hyde-White as Sire Anton. During the season other famous actors would appear such as Fred Astaire, Bobby Van, Ray Bolger, Randolph Mantooh, Lloyd Bochner, Edward Mulhare, and Patrick Macnee (who played Count Iblis and was the voice of the Imperious Leader along with the opening narration in many episodes). Jonathan Harris lent his voice to the Cylon Lucifer.

Battlestar Galactica (BG)is set in either a distant part of our galaxy or another one (the BG writers were awful about many astronomical terms and their meaning) in a binary star system where twelve planets make up what is called the Twelve Colonies of Man. The names of the colonies are from the Zodiac. They are an advanced spacefaring civilization and descended from a mother civilization called Kobol. Although they speak English, much of their vocabulary is radically different from our own in key ways. For instance centaries instead of hours or yahren instead of years. Terms or names infer a connection to our own mythology (names like Apollo, Athena for instance). The colonies are united in a political union though its exact nature is not clearly defined but has an elected president (in this case President Adar) and the Council of Twelve which are leaders selected by each colony to serve as advisors to the president and possibly head up important areas of government. Commander Adama is the senior Colonial Fleet officer (his exact title is the complicated commander-in-chief instead of Fleet Admiral or Chief Fleet Operations).

The Colonies were at war with Cylons but a peace treaty is about to be signed. The Cylons were a sentient reptilian species that decided to create humanoid robots to serve their needs. Over time these robots became sentient and replaced the original Cylons who are believed to be extinct at this point in time. Their cosmic view of an ordered universe meant humans have no place in it. By extension that would also mean other sentient life might be considered a threat making the Cylons a grave threat to any race they encounter unless they were a more advanced civilization. In a future episode (War of the Gods) we learn that Count Iblis, either a fallen Lord of Kobol or Satan, is behind the Cylons. Which means the Cylons are part of a larger plan in the BG cosmos. The war lasted close to a millennia and President Adar is delighted mankind will at last have peace. Adama is unsure but demurs to Adar. Unfortunately Adama was correct. It turns out to be a ruse. A routine patrol led by his son Captain Apollo and another son Lieutenant Zac find a Cylon tanker and a large Cylon task force. Their discovery prompts the Cylons to attack sooner then intended but it has devastating results. Only Adama’s ship was prepared since he decided to run a battle drill. The other battlestars are unable to launch their fighters and the Cylons are fully prepared to use kamikaze tactics to destroy the battlestars. While this battle is going on, the Cylons move their large ships to attack the colonies directly. All the planets come under attack. We learn in a future episode that Baltar sabotaged the planetary defense platforms. Adama did take Galactica to Caprica but is unable to stop the holocaust that occurs. A lull in fighting allows Adama to collect survivors into whatever transport is available and lead a convoy away from their home system.

220 ships manage to make it with about 50,000 survivors scattered amongst them. They stop at Carillon, which is an old tylium mine, to get supplies and other needed things. However it is now being run by the Ovids (a sentient insect species that runs the resort) and there is a resort where many humans are living it up. They have no idea the colonies have been wiped out. The mine is huge but the official report (d0ne by Baltar’s people) downplayed it. Astonishingly the new Council of Twelve, with the repulsive Sire Uri as member (who was found hoarding food earlier), wants to disarm and live on Carillon! Unfortunately both the Ovids and Cylons get in the way. Turns out the Ovids have cut a deal with the Cylons. The Ovids happen to like how humans taste (literally) so keeping them around for food serves the Cylons nicely. However the Cylons have a small outpost on the planet and when that gets discovered (along with learning the Ovids like to consume humans), a gun battle ignites the tylium in the mine. Meanwhile the Cylons show up and a clever ruse by Apollo and Starbuck forces the Cylon ship closer to the surface where internally it is getting ready to blow. It does taking with it the Cylon fleet and its emperor (called the Imperious Leader) with it.

So where does the fleet go now? Well Adama suggests finding the 13th tribe, which according to scripture, went to a planet called Earth. He does not know its location (unlike the Adama in the re-imagined series that lied that he knew)but believes it is their best hope. And so the Colonials set off on their voyage of discovery and each episode, narrated by Adama ends:

Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest…a shining planet known as Earth.

Meanwhile Baltar is spared (in the theatrical version he is beheaded) setting him up as the main protagonist for the series. In the following episode, he is given a Cylon ship and Lucifer to find Galactica.

Overall the pilot (Saga of a Star World) is not bad. It earned top ratings on television and the theatrical release also did well. Comparisons to Star Wars aside, the show offered something different. A distant but related colony of mankind that lost its home worlds and now seeks Earth as its new home. Their adventure to find Earth offered more opportunities to show their culture and history. Not to mention what they learn on their journey to Earth. So it was a promising start but has it problems. Special effects wise the pilot was well done but later on in the series, those special effects got reduced down to recycled footage to keep costs down. Supposedly the cost per episode was $1 million dollars, which was considerable back in 1978.

One of the big complaints is how the civilian government is always wrong and Adama always right. Critics are right to point this out as a problem. President Adar is a naive in trusting the Cylons and leaving the colonies unprotected by bringing all the battlestars. The new Council of Twelve is always inept and foolish while the military is always right.It  began in the pilot when, after the destruction of their home worlds, the Council of Twelve wants to disarm and live in peace. That is such a nonsensical position to begin with. When the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941, there was no doubt in most people’s minds what needed to be done. Nor in Congress or in the presidency. War was declared and America went to war. It hunkered down, got the resources moving, and went out to challenge the Japanese (and later the Germans). Those that advocated against war were relegated to a corner where they could talk amongst themselves. No one wanted to listen to them.

Critics say the show advocated fascism but I doubt that was in Glen Larson’s mind. Rather this is an example of lazy thinking and not understanding the implications of what the characters were implying. In short, bad script review. Worse was the total misuse of terms like galaxy, sector, quadrant throughout the series. Then there are the cliché driven episodes that really stank. Since they rushed to series, they relied upon using western themes hoping to fill out the schedule. And they really botched it about what happens in space. You can go up, down, right and left. A planet with a huge pulsar cannon can be easily avoided without having to remake, Galactica style, the Guns of Navarone. Since fire cannot burn in space (no oxygen), the episode Fire In Space was a nod to Irwin Allen. And trying to put out a fire with water would be likewise useless (it would freeze). The re-imagined show got that part right by having the affected area vented to space.

The did however manage to produce some stand out episodes that overall still made the series compelling.  Lost Planet of The Gods took us to Kobol, Living Legend found another battlestar and its well known Commander Caine had also survived, War of the Gods introduced Count Iblis and the mysterious beings of light, and Hand of God had Galactica turn around and take on the Cylons and at the same time receive an interesting message that had traveled thousands of yahrens to get there (the moon landing). Some of the lesser episodes were not totally bad like Baltar’s Escape or The Man With Nine Lives in which Chameleon (played by Fred Astaire) might be Starbuck’s father (turns out he was but wanted it kept secret). And the ratings, overall for the entire first season were not totally bad. But ABC cancelled it despite its strong ratings (and some better ideas for a second season) likely because of the cost. And so ended Galactica.

Not quite. Perhaps because they realized they erred or the stars aligned properly, they decided to bring it back. Unfortunately that was Galactica 1980. Larson really lost his mind on this venture taking with it any loyalty of fans with it. The show had Galactica arrive at Earth in our time frame (totally contradicting the original series) and was a total mess. No one who liked BG liked Galactica 1980. It quickly went down in ratings and then a merciful dump into trash bin where such shows as My Mother The Car are tossed into. From that point on, I doubt many BG fans ever trusted Glen Larson again.

The Re-imagined Series
The SciFi(SyFy now)miniseries and series was a wholesale reinvention of the BG story. Ron Moore, who worked on Star Trek:Deep Space Nine was an executive producer with David Eick. Glen Larson is listed as a consulting producer. The show ran from 2004-2009 and received good ratings though they slipped in season three and four. It was received critical acclaim in many places as well. Many in the classical BG community were disappointed it was not either a continuation of the original BG series or a remake of it. The series was darker and more gritty in tone, not unlike Otto Preminger’s excellent 1965 World War II movie In Harm’ s Way. In that movie nearly all the major characters had significant flaws.

In the re-imagined series, there are significant changes. First, the Cylons are a creation of man. They were created as robots to serve them in a variety of tasks and rebelled. Second, the series fleshed out the religion of both humans and Cylons. Humans were polytheists who worship the Lords of Kobol, whose names are chiefly drawn from the Greek pantheon though Egyptian, Roman and even Norse ones appear as well. Cylons were monotheists (worshiping one god). Like the original series the humans are descended from a mother civilization that came from Kobol. Unlike the original series, on Kobol they co-existed with their gods until they had to leave. It is unclear exactly what these Lords of Kobol really were. Were they really deities, a highly advanced race that benevolently tried to help humans, or humans that had become like Bodhisattvas?

This dueling theology (polytheism vs monotheism) made the show interesting along with the conflicts between the military and civilian leaders. We also learn in season 2 where Earth is and, as it was revealed at that time, there could be only explanation for how this information was displayed: that humans had come from Earth setting the whole thing in the future. However that turned out not to be the case at all. By the end of season 4 we learned that the 13th tribe that left Kobol 2,000 years before the departure of the colonials were humanoid Cylons and settled on not-our-Earth. There they learned to procreate naturally without the need of resurrection technology. But alas they also created mechanical robots who rebelled and the resulting war killed everyone leaving that Earth a desolate wasteland for Galactica to find. There were five survivors (the Final Five) who were warned about the destruction, used resurrection technology to save themselves, and set off for the colonies to prevent them from mistaking the same mistake. They got their too late but did end the war and created the new Cylons (Cavil etc). In the finale, after the destruction of the Cylon colony, Starbuck enters the coordinates realizing a song she heard her father play has the information. And then they arrive on Earth II, our Earth it seems. An Earth that already has a tribe of primitive humans genetically compatible with them. The colonials decide to settle, give up all their technology, and start anew. The Cylon centurions are given their freedom to head out into the cosmos and the remaining Cylons decide to stay on Earth. Adama selects areas around the globe for people to settle in. 150,000 years later we see New York City and a man (Ron Moore) reading a news story about the finding of a  mitochondrial Eve, which is Hera Agathon, born of a Cylon mother and a human father. Messenger counterparts of Six and Baltar speculate on whether it will turn out as before but Six thinks they will make it by the law of averages.

The finale was controversial. It not only misused what mitochondrial Eve is, it made it abundantly clear that a supreme being was behind everything from the beginning. In short, none of the characters had any free will. They were living out what this deity wanted, Cylon and human. And only a supreme being make another Earth and make it compatible for the colonials. The colonials desire to somehow make a change never materializes because there is no evidence they ever existed on this Earth. They also gave up everything for a simple basic existence, which defies logic considering how dangerous that is considering the threats they know exist. Aside from diseases they have never dealt with before they would have a hand to mouth existence living on what ever they are able to grow, catch or raise. Another troubling thing is that, if there is a supreme being involved, the same bad thing happens over and over again. It happened on Kobol, on the humanoid Cylon world, and in the Colonies of Kobol. It is like a lab experiment, with only variations on a theme. Either mankind is doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again, or perhaps there is another element that is sort of hinted at. Perhaps there is a fallen Lord of Kobol or Lucifer that exists as well that somehow manages to help muck up what ever this supreme being tries to do.

A mess is what it is and Moore, like Larson, has earned wrath from the fans who may not trust him again. Why Moore choose this route is anyone’s guess. If the original series can be blamed for sloppy writing and poor thinking, one can argue Moore over thought this series. It would be one thing had from the start if a supreme being was calling the shots and have them deal with it by trying to circumvent the design. But that is now it was laid out for most of the series. Babylon 5 had its principal characters challenge the Vorlons and Shadows to stop trying to make the universe in their image. It forced them to leave when they learned none of the younger races would be part of their grand plans. That might have had a chance on this Galactica had it been shown the Lords of Kobol, in competing factions, were behind much of went on.

Final Thought
The possibility of a movie based on the original series is still out there. Glen Larson owns those rights and has indicated a script is being done. And if reports are accurate, will link to the re-imagined series. Since the shows took place in different eras (the re-imagined show thousands of years ago, and BG thousands of years from now)it is possible to link them. It would be interesting to see how that turns out. Till then those of us who enjoy the guilty pleasure of watching the classic BG can do so thanks to it being out on dvd. It is also available on Netflix (dvd and streaming as of this date). Battlestar Galactica was one of those shows that ought to have succeeded. But a combination of bad writing, incoherent thinking, and costs all conspired to ruin a promising show. It had its moments, like all guilty pleasures do.

End Notes
1. For those wanting to delve deeply into classical BG, I highly recommend John Kenneth Muir’s book An Analytical Guide To Television’s Battlestar Galactica(McFarland & Company, 1999). It is available through Amazon in hardcover and paperback editions. Also check your local library as well. Muir gives the series a through examination going through all its good and bad points. John Muir has a website and a blog.

2. There are numerous websites about Battlestar Galactica. But a good place to start is Battlestar Wiki. The site has detailed information about the classic series, the re-imagined series, Caprica, and Blood & Chrome.

3. One of the most well written analysis of the finale was written by Brad Templeton on his blog Brad Ideas. The entry Battlestar’s “Daybreak:” The worst ending in the history of on-screen science fiction goes through all the problems created by Moore’s decision to make it all God’s will and use Hera to fit Mitochondrial Eve.

Cobh’s Titanic Pier Sold To Titanic Experience

Titanic pier CobhThe Irish Examiner reports that the historic pier in Cobh, Ireland, where people boarded Titanic, has been sold to Titanic Experience. Titanic Experience is on the site of the former White Star Line ticket office adjacent to the pier. The pier is in serious disrepair requiring considerable work to make it safe. The Cobh Town Council was disappointed to learn of the news as some desired it be taken over by the city. However confusion over who actually owned the pier was a sticking point for them to proceed. It appears Titanic Experience managed to make a determination and purchase the pier. Some bracing work has begun on the pier.

Source: Cobh’s Historic Titanic Pier Sold (17 Feb 2014, Irish Examiner)
Irish Examiner*

*Due to a policy of demanding payment for links to Republic of Ireland newspapers, this blog does not provide such links.

President George Washington’s Birthday

 George Washington (1732–99) by Gilbert Stuart  Photo: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)
George Washington (1732–99) by Gilbert Stuart
Photo: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

Although today is referred to as “President’s Day” it is not a federal holiday by that name. It is officially designated as Washington’s Birthday under federal law. There was a movement to combine both Washington and Lincoln’s birthday (since they occur days apart) or honor the office of president. That never came to be. Instead in 1968 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was past and came into force in 1971. That shifted most federal holidays to a Monday if it fell during the week. Washington’s Birthday name was not changed and so under federal law it is still Washington’s Birthday. However many states issue their own proclamations celebrating not only Washington but Lincoln and others from their own state. Advertisers have caught on as well. So today many call it President’s Day but who it commemorates beyond George Washington is up to the state governors.

St. Valentine’s Day

Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland Photo: Blackfish (Wikimedia Commons)
Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland
Photo: Blackfish (Wikimedia Commons)

Valentine’s Day is used by many to show their affection or love for someone they care about. It has spawned an industry for greeting card makers, candies, and of course flowers. However there is a real religious component as many Christian denominations celebrate it as feast day, commemoration, or optional for the local diocese (such as the Catholic Church). Valentine was the name of many Christian martyrs in the early Church resulting in them all being remembered for their acts of sacrifice for the faith. Some denominations, such as Eastern Orthodox Church, celebrate a particular St. Valentine on two different days.

The association with romantic love could be linked to an ancient Roman festival has been made but there is no evidence of any link. Most seem to believe the link began with Chaucer’s Parlemont of Foules where he indicates birds choose their mates on St. Valentine’s Day although 14 Feb might not be the day Chaucer was referring to. Other poems made the association of love and St. Valentine’s Day in the medieval period and English Renaissance. For those who needed love verses but lacked the ability to compose them, publishers starting offering them. Then putting them on paper and sending them became possible. Paper valentines became very popular in 19th century England resulting in their industrial production. They became popular in the United States as well. With such cards being popular, you needed other things to accompany a card. Roses and chocolates became popular, likely due to skillful marketing to associate them with the day. And so Valentine’s Day became a very major day for greeting card companies, chocolate makers, and sellers of flowers (roses being the most popular flower for the day).

Of course we ought to remember that it is based upon Valentine, who became a saint after he was martyred in Rome in 269 and buried on Flaminian Way. He is the patron saint of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages.