A Blast From The Past

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW   |   Feb. 14, 2002 at 3:44 AM

Today is Feb. 14.

A least two Christians with the name Valentine were martyred -- i.e., killed -- on this date. One, a priest, was beaten and beheaded in 269 A.D., supposedly for performing secret wedding ceremonies for soldiers at a time when Roman authorities thought it best that soldiers remain unmarried. Another Valentine, the Bishop of Terni, was said to have had his head chopped off also on the date but possibly in a later year.

So how do we celebrate these martyrdoms today? With cards, flowers, candy and so forth. Actually, early church officials may've chosen Feb. 14 as a celebration of Christian martyrs as a diversion from the pagan observance of Lupercalia. They didn't like us having fun, eh?

The West Coast citrus industry was born on this date in 1886 when the first trainload of oranges left Los Angeles for eastern markets.

On this day in 1979, Iranian guerrillas stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, trapping Ambassador William Sullivan and 100 staff members. Forces of the Ayatollah Khomeini later freed them but the incident foreshadowed the embassy takeover in November.

And 10 years later, in 1989, Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini -- offended by a novel titled "The Satanic Verses" -- called on Muslims around the world to kill its British author, Salmon Rushdie. He offered a $1 million reward for Rushdie's death. The writer went into hiding. In 1998, the Iranian government rescinded the death sentence.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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