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On Valentine's Day: Don't be Caught Without

By Bonnie Powell
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 1998 – When St. Valentine was beheaded for marrying soldiers to their sweethearts, his last thought was probably not "Wow, someday lovers will give each other candy because of me."

Legend has it the pagan fertility festival, Lupercalia, was renamed Valentine's Day in honor of Valentine, a priest in Rome during the beginning of Christianity. At the time, Emperor Claudius II forbade his soldiers to marry, believing as married men they would want to stay home with their families rather than fight his wars.

Valentine defied the emperor's decree and secretly married the couples. He was eventually arrested, imprisoned and put to death.

Military attitudes toward marriage have evolved considerably since then. But let's face it, when you are used to leading a disciplined life, there are only a few times of the year you allow yourself to walk down the candy aisle at the commissary. Right?

Well, this is one of them.

Exactly how did people start giving candy for Valentine's Day? Don't ask Larry Roush of Mars or Billy Mahanes of Nestle.

"I don't have a clue," Roush said. But he does know it's one of the few times of the year people give themselves "permission" to indulge.

According to John Sidell, candy buyer for the Defense Commissary Agency, candy sales are up -- 3 percent to 4 percent this year. And now, he said, is the time to get great deals on candy in the commissary: If you're tired of the traditional box of chocolates and samplers for your sweetie, there other options available. There's "love bites" and "love bears." And then there's heart-shaped chocolate crunch and a candy for the slightly jaded called "Love's a Jungle."

Valentine's Day candy involves more than just sweethearts giving to sweethearts, Mahanes said. The big markets are also sharing and snacking: around the house and parent-to-children, as well as casual giving at the office and in the classroom.

Oddly enough, Roush said, Valentine's Day is not even close to being the major candy season. The biggest is the back- to - school"/Halloween season with 32 percent of the market, followed by Christmas at 27 percent, Easter at 25 percent and Valentine's Day at 16 percent. The reason is the length of the time people think about buying candy for holidays.

"Those top seasons are about six weeks in length," Roush said. "Most people don't start thinking about Valentine's Day until the first of February."

Better take a look at your calendar. It's that time of year.

(Powell is a writer with the Defense Commissary Agency.)

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