On the 14th of February, Nigerians put aside the agony of a crunchy economy to join the rest of the world to celebrate Valentine Day. To those who believe in it, the day affords lovers, family members and friends the opportunity to practically demonstrate their love towards one another.
Aside its rich and characteristic romantic content, over the years, exchange of gift items such as cards, letters, flowers, clothes, shoes, bags, jewelries, cars, and other such has become an integral part of the Valentine ritual. Romantic meetings where cozy and sumptuous meals are the main item in a homely spot of choice are also top on the Valentine Day’s schedule. To demonstrate its uniqueness, red is the preferred symbol of Valentine’s Day. This is revealed through the fashion sense of diverse Valentine disciples and apostles who adorn assorted red stuffs. Hence, to a large extent, Valentine Day could be said to be a red lettered day!
Valentine’s Day has a rich history that dates back to the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia which was held on February 15. According to the narration, a priest named Valentine disobeyed Emperor Claudius II’s decree that soldiers remain bachelors. Claudius handed down this decree believing that soldiers would be distracted and unable to concentrate on fighting if they were married or engaged. But love drunk Valentine defied the emperor and secretly performed marriage ceremonies. As a result of his defiance, Valentine was put to death on February 14.
After Valentine’s death, he became a saint. As Christianity spread through Rome, the priests moved Lupercalia from February 15 to February 14 and renamed it St. Valentine’s Day to honor Saint Valentine.
Interestingly, Valentine’s Day celebration has globally assumed a larger than life image. Consequently, there is a huge economic angle to the whole Valentine episode. Hospitality and entertainment sectors are mostly affected. Since love and romance are involved, it is only natural that those in the hospitality and related businesses benefit hugely from the smell of love that is in the air.
To really cash in on the economic prospect of the day, many restaurants, nite clubs, cinemas, relaxation gardens and hotels usually put up special tantalizing offers on Valentine’s Day, all in a bid to attract good business. As a result of the flurry of activities for the day, these spots are often busier than usual as many people go out for a date with their spouse, partner or prospective lover.
In Nigeria, younger folks in particular, eagerly look forward to celebrating Valentine. In most major cities across the country, streets, hotels, stores, restaurants are covered in red, pink and white streamers, with big heart shaped signs wishing people Happy Valentine’s Day. Fancy and fast food restaurants are filled with couples eating out for the holiday. Places with very unexciting night life suddenly burst into life on valentine nite. In major cities such as Lagos, Ibadan, Port-Harcourt, Jos and Benin, Valentine’s Day often extends deep into the wee hours of the night with adventurous lover birds embarking on a mission to paint the town red.
Hence, sales at most popular hang outs, on Valentine’s Day, are usually on the high side. This implies that for those in the hospitality sector and other related businesses, Valentine’s Day offers remarkable opportunity to make extraordinary profit.
However, as it is with every human endeavour, to some, Valentine’s Day isn’t all about thrills and frills. This is particularly true of those who view it from a strictly pious and moral perspective. They are so disgusted that they dub it ‘a celebration of satanic lies’. They are not sufficiently convinced about the correctness of the modern day principle or philosophy behind Valentine celebration.
To the pious school of thought, the real essence of the huge price that St. Valentine paid for love is being recklessly trivialized and immorally derided. The kind of love that is usually celebrated on Valentine’s Day is being subjected to severe scrutiny by moralists who believe that a young fellow who is still in High school has no business embarking on a ‘meaningless satanic voyage’, all in the name of celebrating Valentine.
This line of reasoning is further amplified by the claim, though without any empirical evidence, that the end results of Valentine’s Day are often unwanted pregnancies, abortions and other such related ungodly acts. One other objection of moralists to the whole Valentine argument is that the celebration of love should not be a one day affair. Choosing a particular day to celebrate love is, thus, viewed as an act of hypocrisy borne out of sheer ignorance. Love should be celebrated and practiced on a daily basis.
In order to ensure that the youths, in particular, are not imprudent in this weird understanding of Valentine, some religious leaders and groups now seize the opportunity of the day to organize seminars, workshops, talks etc that could help guide the youths from falling into the snare and error of what they term misguided interpretation of love. It is desired to enlighten them, to aptly tutor them on the proper way to celebrate love. The intention is to direct their minds to the actual connotation of St Valentine’s Day.
The world is presently in dire need of true love. Unfortunately, true love has become a scarce commodity in contemporary time. Everyone is in search of true love, but quite a few are really prepared to pay the price for it. With separation and divorce now so routine that many see them as inevitable, it seems the very idea of true love has almost become a mirage in this dispensation. There is so much selfishness, greed and evil all across the world that true love seems rare.
According to late American human rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr. true love heals broken hearts and hurting wounds. In an increasingly wayward, troubled and complicated world, true love remains an essential ingredient for peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and understanding. It is, therefore, important that Valentine’s Day is celebrated with a proper understanding of the real concept of love.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.