Last weekend, precisely February 14, Nigerians joined the rest of the world to observe Saint Valentine Day- a celebration that has assumed a global tradition and is held in high esteem as Lovers’ Day.
Saint Valentine was a Roman Catholic priest that attracted the disfavour of Roman emperor Claudius 11 by conducting secret weddings for young soldiers hitherto prohibited from marrying because the emperor who, wanted to maintain a focused, determined and single-minded army, had claimed that marriage could be a distraction and that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the command of the Emperor.
Valentine is reported to have signed off a note written to the daughter of his former chief executor with the words “from your Valentine,” which subsequently inspired today’s Lovers’ Day festivity. Ever since, Valentine has come to be known as patron saint of lovers.
But Saint Valentine version of love, it seems, had a different connotation far from today’s romantic frenzy associated with the February 14 global cupid rituals. Although Valentine lived in a permissive society where loose living and polygamy had gradually become a norm, yet the celebration of Saint Valentine did not have any romantic undertone until Chaucer’s poetry in the 14th century.
Over the centuries, St, Valentine has evolved, and by the 18th century Europe, it was observed as special holiday and it subsequently went commercial. Gift-giving and exchanged of handmade cards had become common in England. Today, it is a huge commercial success as hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids messages and other forms of social exchanges are common ritual.
According to the United States Greeting Card Association, approximately 200 million valentines cards are sent each year in the US alone, and in Nigeria where there is no statistical record, it is estimated that no fewer than 70 million cards and other gifts involving hundreds of millions of naira is spent by lovebirds.
And with the ever rising popularity of digital means of creating and sending Valentine’s Day greeting messages, such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards, the amount spent on Valentine Day is astronomical.
Whereas the hallmark holiday has attended delectable success in commercialisation, we are worried that its gross social inadequacies have had adverse effect on the family, socio-cultural values and damaging imprint on the impressionable minds of youth and this portends no little danger.
It seems that Valentine’s Day celebration has been misconstrued as a day to indulge in obscene activities. The Day rather than being used to celebrate and express genuine non-sexual affection for one’s neighbour, family and society, is largely being used to elevate promiscuity, greed, loose living and disdain for long-held honour for one’s mate and family/societal values. Statistics have shown high demand for condoms during the period and the fact that many non-governmental organisations are known to have used the occasion to distribute free condoms, embark on campaigns for protective sex, affirm the high incidences of licentious acts during the celebration.
Were spouses to use the celebration to sober reflect and rededicate themselves to each other, Valentine’s Day festivity would certainly have retained its nobility, but the painful reality is the high incidences of failing relationships, infidelity and breakages in marriage which are usually associated with the Val celebration, lately.
We think over indulgence of moral-depravity invalidates the essence and integrity of the celebration. In fact, it seems safe to say that were St Valentine to be alive today he would have rather distanced himself from the charred called Valentine’s Day than be remotely associated with the activities dominant in the traditional day.
Besides, in major cities in the country, the day is associated with increased activities of drugs abuses as youths and the not so young freely indulge in mind altering drugs, consume excessive quantity of alcohol and engage in other wide activities to demean the value of life and respect for authority and neighbours.
It seems also that the adoptions of certain foreign values in the guise of celebrating Valentine have watered down our ethical values as greed and disdain for long-held honour for one’s mate are the accepted norms.
Therefore, that St. Valentine Day celebration is a commercial success globally is not in contention, neither is its contagious adverse consequences on our socio-cultural values. We would rather the original essence of Valentine day be observed than allow free rein to the excesses in loose living, drugs abuse, tendency to circumvent the law and the general incidences of outlawry in gardens and other places of relaxation which are regular features during Valentine.
Valentine’s Day should be set aside for the celebration of love; the demonstration of love for other members of the society and not necessarily an annual ritual of promiscuity but an everyday affair of love to the needy. That way, the nation’s health and well being of all would be secured.