Not The Reason For The Season


The Saint Valentine’s Day, famously known as Lovers’ Day is around the corner once again. Nigerians,  like their counterparts in other parts of the world have been shopping for gift items for their  lovers. Some have even booked hotel rooms, while others have been thinking of that posh rendezvous  where their partners will be given a one in a lifetime treat. But is that the significance of the St  Valentine’s Day after all?

To an average Nigerian, the 14 February date is a day meant to be spent with the opposite sex at bars,  night clubs and perhaps, behind closed doors. And this belief seems to have been the order of the day  from one generation to the other.

Medical doctors have confirmed that after St. Valentine’s Day, they record more cases of unwanted  pregnancies, and sadly enough too, abortions, mostly among teenagers. Such is the case of Lara [not  real name] that lost her precious asset- virginity, all in a bid to ‘make it up’ to her boyfriend on  St. Valentine’s Day. She got pregnant weeks later and had no choice than to go for an abortion. That  was imperative because the guy in question was just a final year secondary school student.

In her confessional statement, Lara acknowledged the fact that as a young girl, she was actually  blind-folded with the razzmatazz attached to Val’s Day. According to her, “the impression most of us  had then was that it is a day when you must be with your boyfriend, and perhaps, have sex in the  process. Some of my friends also had similar problems that I had because we believed it was a sin to  say ‘no’ to your boyfriend on Val’s Day. That is why I have taken it as a duty to be sensitizing our  youths, the female ones in particular, about the significance of Val’s Day.”

Thank God, Lara is now a counsellor, but what if she had her womb damaged or even died from  complications resulting from the abortion?  Apparently, there are thousands of Nigerian teenagers that  have found themselves in such difficult situation simply because they have no proper orientation of  what or how the St. Valentine’s Day should be celebrated.

Ignorantly, some guys would look for flimsy excuses to quarrel with their girlfriends, simply because  they can’t afford to buy them the best gifts or they don’t have the financial ability to trip them at  Silverbird Galleria or Shoprite among other posh fun havens.

In respect of this, popular comedian, Julius Agwu said if you must celebrate Val with your female  partner, you don’t necessarily need to buy her the most expensive gift or take her to a place that is  beyond your financial capability.

“But you can show that you appreciate her with good poems, greeting cards, or even send a creative  mobile text message to her. The whole idea of it is to let the person know that you appreciate him or  her,” Agwu reiterated.

While some guys have blamed the situation on Nigerian ladies, who are more demanding, unlike their  White counterparts, ladies described men who find themselves in such mess as lousy ones.

According to Efe Imafidon, a club DJ, “in abroad, guys give their partners anything like flowers and  greeting cards as Val gifts…it could even be a simple hug and the lady would be in cloud nine, but in  Nigeria, the reverse is the case. The only card a Nigerian girl will collect from you now is recharge  card. She would see you as the biggest fool if you present her a greeting card or flower.”

But as for Lola Omotayo, it would be wrong to generalise on this matter because there are still  Nigerian ladies that appreciate simple gifts from people on such occasions. She made reference to when  her relationship with Peter Okoye of P Square fame started.

Lola said she fell in love with the music star because on a particular Val’s Day, “he was the first  person that came to my house. When I opened the door after hearing the door bell ring, I was surprised  to see him. He only came with a guitar and played one of his love songs to me. I actually felt so  special that day.”

Perhaps, because of the varying opinions as to the origin of St. Valentine’s Day, many people seem to  have lost grip on its significance, particularly as it relates to modern day norms.

There are varying opinions as to the origin of St. Valentine’s Day. Some experts state that it  originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died  on 14 February, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. It was also said that  St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed  it, “From Your Valentine.” Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at  the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him.  And in 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside 14 February to honour St. Valentine.

Over time, 14 February has become the date for exchanging love messages as a celebration of St.  Valentine. The date is actually marked by sending poems and simple gifts, such as flowers, to loved  ones. It should, however, be noted that loved ones being referred to here are not necessarily the  opposite sex. It could be anybody, irrespective of class, race and status.

Even teenagers are not left out of this exercise. Some of them get cards and present them to friends  at school. St. Valentine’s Day is also a day where warring friends are expected to settle their  disputes and become new friends.

Just like popular singer, Emmanuel ‘Kaha’ Nzemeke, who said for some years now, the St.Valentine’s Day  has served as a day when he settled quarrels with friends. In his  belief, St. Valentine’s Day is  meant to be celebrated by showing love to everybody around him and to also settle quarrels.

Kaha didn’t grow up with this impression because according to him, “as a growing up guy, I used to  think that it is a day when you are expected to have sex or do all manner of things with your  girlfriend. But later, after reading some books, I realised that I had misinterpreted what the day is  meant to be. And ever since, I have been celebrating it at the orphanage, showing love to the kids  there. You may not necessarily go there with bags of rice and all that, but the fact that you  associate yourself with them goes a long way.”

He swiftly added, “I’m not saying that you should not also give your spouse a gift, but that aspect of  sex is what people need to change their orientation about. She may even feel more delighted visiting  the orphanage with you.”

In Nigeria, St. Valentine’s season is one of the most popular, particularly among the youths. They  mostly mark it by organising gigs, visiting night clubs and other fun places with their boyfriends or  girlfriends. The dress code is usually white and red, or better still, any dress with a touch of  either of the colours. These colours have been identified as the symbol of  St. Valentine’s Day.

It all started in the time of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, 14 February was a holiday to honour  Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the goddess of  women and marriage. The next day is the feast of Lupercalia.

The lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate. However, one of the customs of the young  people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of  Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were  written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar  and they would then be partners for the duration of the festival. Sometimes, the pairing of the  children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns.  Claudius was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that  the reason was that Roman men did not want to leave their lovers or families. As a result, Claudius  cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.

The good Saint Valentine was a priest at Rome in the days of Claudius II. He and Saint Marius aided  the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples, and for this kind deed Saint Valentine was  apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs  and to have his head cut off.

He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270. At that time, it was the custom  in Rome, a very ancient custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month of February, the Lupercalia feasts  in honour of a heathen god.

On these occasions, amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a  box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed.

The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavoured to do away with the pagan element in  these feasts by substituting the names of saints for those of maidens. And as the Lupercalia began  about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the  celebration of this new feast. So it seems that the custom of young men choosing maidens for  Valentines, or saints as patrons for the coming year arose in this way. marry a millionaire.

—Bayo Adetu