There is this cartoon one sees every valentine period on Face Book, about a boy chasing after a girl on February 14. In the same cartoon, the chase is reversed in November as the girl is seen, tummy protruding, racing after the boy, ostensibly to get him to accept paternity of the unborn child. The boy simply shows a clean pair of heels, one of his shoes flying off, indicating how desperately he wants to evade responsibility. The cartoon is simply an uncomplicated work of genius because it captures without a word what the celebration of Valentine’s Day has become, especially in the country Nigeria.
Come to think of it, what manner of love becomes serious only once a year – on February 14? For all intents and purposes, Valentine Day Celebration has totally derailed from its original essence. To begin with, it is a day to show love, not lust. But today, the essence of Valentine’s Day is lost on those who crave for the day, as many now see it as set aside for sex. This is a sad development. For Valentine to answer a saint, he obviously has a religious background but some evil minds have tried rather effectively to corrupt his incorruptibility and gave his day a wayward coloration.
It is difficult to say exactly when and how St Valentine became a symbol of all amorous intentions and infatuations. Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world including Nigeria, although it is not a holiday in most of them. In Finland for example, it is called Festival of Love and in China, a Celebration of Friends.
There is no doubt that St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies. A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell. Today, Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. Strangely, the Catholics who produced St Valentine do not; today, February 14, is a feast of St. Cyril and Methodius in the Catholic Church.
There is cause to believe that Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love through the works of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today in other countries include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. In today’s Nigeria, Valentine’s Day Celebration has little or nothing to do with flowers and such innocuous gifts. The girls want ‘real’ gifts and cash.
It is indeed a worldwide celebration; China, Finland and Estonia, France, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Latin America, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Scandinavia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and Wales. The feast has also come in conflict with some Islamic countries and political parties such as Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The extent of the conflict and its very nature also vary.
It can be said that the celebration of Saint Valentine did not have any romantic connotations until Chaucer’s poetry about “Valentines” in the 14th century. Popular modern sources claim links to unspecified Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St. Valentine’s Day, but prior to Chaucer in the 14th century, there were no links between the Saints named Valentinus and romantic love. Earlier links as described above were focused on sacrifice rather than romantic love.
Fact is the situation has changed so dramatically from the celebration of love to celebration of lust, especially in Nigeria. To many young ones, it does appear it is day to do the obscene and show expression for impure passion. To underscore this, in Abuja, a group staged a big show this week on the proper use of condoms, specifically on the Valentine’s Day! The group makes it clear that this is not a time to pretend, since the rate of abortion, deaths from quackery and unwanted pregnancies that follow each Valentine’s Day celebration call for remedies such as their show hoped to offer.
Most young ones are really vulnerable. Though the sales of condoms may also be high at the same time, what is more worrisome is the increasing rates of abortion, deaths from quackery and unwanted pregnancies following each Valentine’s Day celebration. What this means is that condoms may no longer be as popular among the young ones after all. This also means the country will soon begin to add the social costs of STDs and HIV/AIDS bound to accrue to unprotected sex now found to be rampant among the youths.
Since this is the reality, young ones must take personal responsibility to protect themselves on a day like this, especially girls, when many unscrupulous ones will be freely on the prowl. For the young girl particularly, today is not the day to experiment with sex or leave yourself loose. Take practical steps. Make it clear to the boy coming with his big bag of tricks that you are not ready and equally be ready to ward him off if he insists. Avoid being in a room alone with any boy mo matter how innocent he may look, to avoid being raped by him. Under the influence of alcohol both you and boy are very likely to give in to the temptation to have sex. The chances of being raped are also very high under the influence of drugs, especially marijuana and alcohol, and both come so cheap nawadays and are found everywhere.
Please the girl should specifically note that she can also be drugged and raped. That juice or malt drink bottle may have been doctored before your arrival. Boys can use a syringe to inject large quantities of Valium or worse drugs into the Juice packet without opening it and can do the same with the bottle and re-cock, just to get you to sleep off soon after drinking from it. Girl, shine your eyes; dress in jeans trousers today (it gives you a better fighting chance) and stay far from isolated and dark places. If you must attend a party today, do so in company of other girls, who you are sure are decent and innocent enough and insist on returning home after the party. It is better you do not taste alcohol at all today; it may compromise your resolve. Carry some money on you so that you can bail when the outing starts getting funny. A lot of girls are pimps now and keep up through the proceeds so do not trust so easily. Shout if you have to, if you feel you are being dragged or forced. It may be your saving grace.
By all means, show love. It is a perfect day for it. But it mustn’t be carnal for it to be love, especially for the young and vulnerable. The old dogs do not need to be taught these ‘new’ tricks.
Make today happy ever after and avoid acts that will bring you and your family regrets between now and November, when you can no longer hide it.
Happy Valentine to my young friends particularly and to the old ones too! Lets celebrate responsibly.
• Law Mefor, is an Abuja-based Forensic Psychologist and Author; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel.: +234-803-787-2893