World goes red for St Valentine’s Day

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February 14 each year is Valentine’s Day, a day loved ones, families, friends and well wishers stay together and share love in a special way by going to designated outings and exchanging of gifts. The present day Valentine’s Day has become a huge craze especially amongst youth in countries around the world.  Whether you are a  fan of the holiday or not, you probably thought about what you should do or buy for your significant other. But is it celebrated as in the days of the old or are there more glamour attached to it? Is It really important to celebrate Valentine’s Day and give Valentine’s gift to your loved one? MICHAEL AMADI investigates.

A RENOWNED anthropologist, Malinowski stated that  reciprocity is an implicit part of gifting. The gift  giving is everything else than a manifestation of modern consumerism. It  is actually a manifestation of being sociable. Sociability that is tied to establishing and re-establishing the  relationships between individuals and also  between group of individuals.

It is worthy to note that in the 5th century AD, Pope Gelasius I decided to expel the  pagan holiday and replace it with a day for the celebration of a  martyr called Valentine, who was executed by Emperor Claudius II. According  to historians, Valentine’s Day is a successor of the ancient Romans feast of Lupercalia, dating back  to 300 BC. Every year between February 13 and 15, the Romans engaged in celebrations and rituals to honour the coming of Spring. One of the rituals involved sacrificing a dog or a goat and using its skin to whip women, an act that was believed  to increase their  fertility.

In addition, Lupercalia debuted the ancient version of a blind date: Men’s and women’s names were drawn via a lottery and randomly matched to spend the holiday together. If they loved each other at the end of the feast, they would marry soon after. There  are different legends about who St Valentine was .  One tells  the story of a Christian priest who was imprisoned and fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Before his death, he signed a love letter to her with the words “from  your Valentine. Another legend tells about a priest who ignored Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriage for young man in his army. The priest continued to marry couples who were in love for which he was eventually executed. However, the fact remains that  some men (whether Catholic priests or not) died because of love and for his  single reason, February 14 every year has  been set aside to celebrate this unconditional love.

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Interestingly, after  this initial show of love by those early men, women  have now joined the train of love, this is evident in the colours attributed to love which are all feminine. It is also worthy of emphasis, however that as against the modern belief that  it is for people of opposite sex who are in love or aspiring to be, Valentine’s Day is essentially a day to show love to people including neigbours, sibilings, colleagues and strangers, especially those in need.

Although love is a natural disposition that must be encouraged among humans, pundits say that  Valentine’s Day as celebrated in this era is antithetical to the teachings of religions and ethics of morality, adding that it is alien to both Christianity and Islam. They maintained that Africans and Asians who engage in such activities are victims of colonial mentality- an internalized attitude of ethnic or cultural inferiority felt by people as a result of colonisation, which corresponds with the belief that the cultural values of the colonizer are inherently superior to one’s own.

According to them, Valentine’s Day is rooted in Greeco- Roman civilization which promotes immorality, insisting that many innocent youths who are involved in the celebration are ignorant, and have become imitators of anything from foreign lands, and described the act of sexual perversion and immorality often embraced by youths on such occasion as unjust to the heroic deed of Saint Valentine who stood against tyranny to promote marriage, family institution and procreation of men, even as they said that St Valentine was a Christian hero who no one remembers for defending the marriage institution, family ethos and procreation, but is being remembered for the celebration of sex and immorality, which according to them, a great disservice to the great man.

Over the years, Valentine’s Day has evolved and expanded through aggressive marketing strategy, with boys, girls, men, and women scurrying to make holiday bookings, or buy flower and gifts for their loved ones. According to the 2012 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions  and Actions Survey presented by US based statistic Brain Research Institute, the average annual Valentine’s Day spending in the year under review was around 13.19 billion dollars, while the number of Valentine’s Day cards exchanged was valued at 180 million dollars.

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Average number of roses produced for Valentine’s Day , 196 million dollars, revenue of domestically cut flowers in the United States alone was given as 408 million dollars, while annual revenue from jewellery stores for the period was 202 billion dollars. As these love birds celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday, all clad in red and white attires, it is believed that eateries, cake shops, hotels, resort centres, supermarkets, Quick Service Restaurants, brand owners, and marketing buffs had unleashed several marketing strategy through discount offer, in a bid to lure customers. According to a market research firm IBIS World, Valentine’s Day sales reached 17.6 billion dollars in 2012.

However, a visit to Roban stores and Crunchies Fried Chicken Limited in Awka, the Anambra State capital to assess the anticipatory mood and readiness for the Valentine’s Day, revealed that Shoppers and Consumers alike were scanty and rather indifferent about the Valentine’s Day rendezvous.

One of the respondents who spoke to National Light, who gave his name as Nnamdi Ejiofor, hinted that this year’s Valentine’s Day would have been better, but its collision with the Ash Wednesday was something worthy of further consideration.

“I know that for most of us who are Christians, the Ash Wednesday would outshine the Valentine’s Day. On a lighter note, I would say that most men are happy. It is an opportunity to give excuses whether they are observing the Ash Wednesday or not. For me, I have decided to have a low key Valentine with my family, maybe much later in the day. There is not much to celebrate, not just because of the Ash Wednesday, but because of paucity of funds”, he said.

Another person who spoke to the reporter, Emeka Nwankwo, said Valentine’s Day did not mean anything to him, and argued that showing love must not be restricted to a day celebration, adding that he always showed love to anyone around him, because according to him, God is love.

“It is not only on Valentine’s Day that people show love to their spouse or others alone, so it will not affect me from serving my God”, he said.

For Mrs Adaobi Okafor, a Shopper who is self employed, accepted that buyers of Valentine centered products may not go all out to shower gifts on their spouses.

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“It came as a sweet relief to the female folks when the information that the Valentine’s Day would be celebrated the same day with Ash Wednesday, at least the children would see enough reasons why they should not disturb their parents too much. But  I still think that my husband will take us out, maybe later in the day “, she said.

Also speaking on her expectations as the Val’s Day is being celebrated, an undergraduate of Anambra State  University, Uli campus, Miss Ijeoma Nwabufo, maintained that the fact that the Valentine’s Day coincided with the Ash Wednesday has watered down the celebration, adding that most people will opt for the Ash Wednesday because it is a period of self appraisal, fasting, prayer ,and spiritual preparedness, while Valentine’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate love.

Nwabufo explained that Ash Wednesday surpassed every other thing because it was a  day of obligation. The beginning of lent, an official day Christians fast, ask God for forgiveness of sin and a period of sober reflection. She however, noted that Valentine could be celebrated any other day.

But for Princess Ngozi, a fashion designer, life is like an ice cream, so one needs to lick it before it melts.

“All the people talking about Ash Wednesday are actually self deceivers. Is it the first time they are fasting? How many of them are keeping God’s commandment? Forget them, am going to celebrate my Valentine’s Day with my man”, she said.

Judging by the rate of immorality witnessed during Valentine in Nigeria and around the globe in recent times, the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) has warned Nigerians especially the youths, to “love wisely or buy condoms” as they celebrate this year’s Valentine. The Director General, NACA, Sani Aliyu gave the advice in a statement issued by the Head, Public Relations and Protocol of the Agency, Toyin Aderibigbe, in Abuja, Monday. This advice came on the heels of the indiscriminate sexual activities during the celebration.

This year’s Valentine’s Day was unique because it was celebrated the same day with the Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. The two events first coincided 73 years ago.

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