The day is Valentine’s Day. So much to cherish, yet so much to dread. Debate is on as to what it means and what it should mean but one thing remains for certain, this is not a day you can ignore. You know what I speak of, but as the legendary poet Chaucer put it –
“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to chose his mate.”
Everywhere you look there is an abundance of heart shaped pink things is visible. Some people hold hands while some seek solace on their own. Some buy teddy bears, chocolates and cards while others sit at home and watch Netflix. Valentine’s day is one of the biggest pop culture phenomena that has the luxury of returning every year. Every restaurant, mall, movie, television series, song and even game (REJOICE POKEMON GO ENTHUSIASTS!!) does something special for all that is touched by love. But is that all this day is?
As far as the history of Valentine itself is concerned, it is highly conflicted. There is no concrete background for why the day is celebrated and most of the explanations end up delving into sheer myth. What most know is that the day is named after St. Valentine, but who is he?
According to history.com, Valentine is a name that belongs to at least three saints. Coincidentally, all of these saints were martyred on the same day. There are of course no prizes whatsoever for guessing that the day is the 14th of February. As for the saints themselves the legends are many. One legend involves Valentine being a priest who performed marriages for young lovers in secret. Emperor Claudius II had decreed that young men were better suited as soldiers. Hence, Valentine’s actions when he perceived the law as inhumane, actions that led to his execution. There are stories about a Valentine who helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisoners. One such story recounts a Valentine sending a letter to his jailer’s daughter, whom he loved. The letter was signed, “From your Valentine.” This phrase is used even today, though not always in such dire circumstances.
The legends are quite conflicted, to say the least, but their impact is for all to see. The day has become something of a symbol for lovers all over the world. Hearts are joined and broken in the number of millions. Reports say that in the United States 150 million greeting cards are sold during this time. And is that all?
Like another day, the 14th of February is a day when many events happened that have shaped the world into what it is today. While love is a primordial force in its own right, history isn’t far behind. So, in case you’re alone and miserable today, fear not. For we have just the historical trivia for you!
A lot happened on this day. This was the day when Oscar Wilde’s famous play – ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’, was performed in London. Love letters written between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were published by Wellesley College and Baylor University. The U.S.S.R and China signed a peace treaty. The Bank of England was nationalized. The famous IBM Corporation was founded by Thomas Watson. South Africa was bowled out for 30 runs by England, making this their lowest score ever. States like Oregon and Arizona were created as a part of the United States of America. The list could go on and on but there were always those events that stand out. The events that make the world look up and take notice because it just changes. Some of them are listed henceforth, but not all.
Bahrain’s Day of Rage
On the 14th of February, Bahraini youth launched a peaceful protest against the regime of Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Most were inspired by similar uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and took to the streets. They demanded the people to do so throughout the country but in a peaceful and orderly manner. Security forces responded by tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and birdshot. At least thirty people were injured and one got killed.
Al Wefaq, the country’s largest political party and many other opposition parties opposed the violent reaction to the protests. Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commissions itself called for ceasing the violence on peaceful protestors.
In 1349 as the Black Death swept Europe, hundreds of Jews were murdered in Strasbourg. A place that lies on the French American border. Jews were accused of carrying the illness which had led to the death of over one-third of the Europeans. As a result there were many attacks on the Jew population, with the worst being in Strasbourg . Some city elders and tradesmen, who profited from Jew business, opposed the attack. But the masses, out of fear, drove even the city leaders out of office for alleged collusion with the Jews. Ultimately around a thousand people were barricaded inside the Jew cemetery and burnt to death, thus causing a massacre that is said to have lasted 60 days. These people had refused to be baptised and paid the ultimate price for their choice.
There were those that remained but they were promptly expelled from the city. All of their property was confiscated and if they entered the city again they were subject to extreme taxation and a ban on being in the city at night. The plague did arrive in Strasbourg, in the end, and killed around 15000 people. To this day, this remains one of the more horrific examples of Anti-Semitism witnessed throughout history.
Dresden was a city in Germany that was regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. While it is true that nowhere in Germany was a place that had not contributed to the war but Dresden’s was minimal. It seemed like an unlikely place for the Allies to attack but then “all’s fair in war” isn’t it??
On the night of 13th February till the next morning, the Royal Air Force dropped as much as 1400 tons of explosives and more than 1100 tons of incendiaries. This resulted in a huge firestorm that resulted in death of countless civilians. And if that wasn’t all, on Feb 15 the U.S. Air Force attacked railways, bridges and transportation facilities, attacking all those attempting to flee the city. The exact number of the people who died is yet to be determined but is estimated to be between 35000 and 135000.
The Allies have claimed that the attack was to disrupt communication lines going out off the city. While this cannot be disputed, it has been observed by many experts that the bombing was nothing but a scare tactic. It was designed to break the morale of the German people and push an early surrender. History of course stands witness to the fact that Germany did not surrender till the very end – when the capital had fallen and Hitler was dead.
So there you have it, a look back at the tumultuous events that have taken place on this day. So, take a moment to remember those who died in Strasbourg and Dresden. Remember that with every good day, comes a bad day too.
However, let’s keep the happy faces on. It is Valentine’s Day, you know.
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