Valentine's shadow


February 14 can be a very scary day indeed and is littered with the corpses of those who never lived to see February 15

At TAFE NSW we believe we've got Valentine's Day covered. Our floristry courses are leading the charge and we produce top notch chocolatiers (check out our Chocolate Master Class) that Willy Wonka himself would headhunt. Hell, we can even tell you how to market for the lucrative Valentine's Day dollar (okay, not very romantic, but practical).

So it seems our duty to warn you that, lurking amongst all the hearts and roses, there's a very dark side to Valentine's Day. Even a cursory trawl through the archives shows us that February 14 can be a very scary day indeed and is littered with the corpses of those who never lived to see February 15.

This dark and murderous side isn't really that surprising, given the violent origins of Valentine's Day. The original St Valentine (that is, before he was a Saint) was a Roman priest who lived under the rule of Emperor Claudius in the third century A.D. Claudius wasn't the most romantic dude around and believed that marriage made men soft and poncy, not at all suitable for warfare, which he believed was what really made the world go round. So with a stroke of the stylus, he outlawed marriage.

Valentine disagreed with this and continued to perform marriage services in secret. But he was busted, imprisoned, tortured and eventually beheaded. The date of his martyrdom was February 14. And so began a long tradition of violence and bloodshed.

There wasn't much love in the air for members of Bugs Moran's gang in Chicago in 1929 – only bullets. The infamous Valentine's Day massacre, engineered by Al "Scarface" Capone, ended with seven dead bodies and not a single romantic gesture or kind word.

In 1779 there was trouble in paradise for Captain James Cook. His Valentine's Day was cut unpleasantly short at the pointy end of sharp spears wielded by annoyed Hawaiian natives. Maybe they took the whole "arrow through the heart" thing just a tad too literally.

Even the Australian bush should be avoided on February 14. The Valentine's Day picnic in Joan Lindsay's classic 1967 novel Picnic at Hanging Rock ended with a few less people than it started. And whether the missing persons were abducted by aliens, eaten by feral goats or simply swallowed up by the brooding landscape, the question remains – was it something to do with the date?

Be warned. Be careful. And Happy Valentine's Day.