As the world celebrates Valentine’s Day next Wednesday, SAMSON BENJAMIN examines the origin of the so called Lovers’ Day and the pop culture that comes with it, including the moral burden that it has foisted on society.
In three days time, the much awaited Lovers’ Day will be celebrated almost throughout the world. Usually, February 14th of every year is celebrated around the world as Valentine’s Day. It is a day when people show special affection to their lovers by sending cards, flowers, love messages or even having fun together.
As it is with most western ideas and celebrations, Nigerians are not left behind when it comes to celebrating special days like this. In fact, they are usually at the forefront, especially youths in our universities campuses and other institutions of higher learning.
As February 14 draws closer, awareness on social media has reached its peak. And the conventional media are already awash with advertisements of discounts from shop owners, hotels, night clubs and bars.
Obscure origin of Valentine’s day
There are several accounts about the origin of Valentine’s Day . According to a historian, Mr Silas Ayuba of Nassarawa State University, “ nobody has a clear account as to who is Saint Valentine. From all I have read on his lifestyle and history, there is no single agreement among historians concerning Valentine’s Day celebration”.
However, the most popular is the version which claimed that Saint Valentine was a Roman Catholic priest who attracted the wrath of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270 AD. Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers than married men. However, despite the law, Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies among soldiers and was eventually apprehended by the Romans and put to death on February 14.
Love versus lust
Even though February 14 has always been celebrated as Lovers’ Day for as long as the memory can recall, the nature of the celebration however, remains a subject of debate. While majority feel that Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity for people to profess or renew their love with their lovers, many others see it as a season of immoral expression of love between male and female, especially the youths.
For Mrs Jumai Mainasara, an Abuja-based marriage counselor, Valentine’s Day “is all about spending quality time with one’s family, friends, and relatives”. She added that “ the night of 14th February is simply great. It provides people with the opportunity to express their message of care and love with gifts and join in the celebrations that set the tone of the day of love. Young and old come together to celebrate the magic of love”.
Nigerians are fun loving people and Valentine’s Day gives an opportunity to young people to express their youthful spirit with non stop foot tapping music .
However, as youths express their love for each other by exchanging flowers and gifts as a token of love on that day, most of the time, they indulge in immoral acts under the pretext of Valentine Day celebrations.
The question now is, does real love require this superficial display and can it be confined to just one day? And why are young people always falling prey to the deceit of sex during valentine?
Anabel Ojima, an On Air Personality with Abuja- based Kiss FM radio, told our correspondent that “for many Nigerian youths, Valentine Day is perceived as a love festival- a day of unlimited and carefree sexual activities, a freedom day for unguided alcohol and drug consumption”.
On her part, Aisha Adamu, a second year student of mass communication, Nasarawa State University posed rhetorical questions regarding the Lovers’ Day. According to her, “why wait for one day? What I do not understand is, why wait for a singular day before showing love?’’ The student argued that ‘’if you have a partner and are in a good relationship, I don’t believe you should wait for February 14 to show love.
Everyday should be Valentine Day. Valentine is all about showing love, not only for lovers, but also for anyone worth showing love to the poor and neglected in the streets and to anyone else.”
Similarly, Oche Ada, a National Youth Service Corps member says there’s no difference between Valentine’s Day and any other day. “I am much unlike some people who see that day as a day set apart for youths to thrive in lust and carelessness.
Days leading to February 14, of every year has media houses hammering on the meaning of Valentine, and how the right choices should be made, so I don’t think the mistakes people make on that day are because they weren’t told. I’m sure people will do whatever they want to do regardless the amount of information given on the issue.”
Ms Semira Abdullahi, a final year student in the department of English and Literary studies of Nasarawa State University, said she does not celebrates Valentine’s Day as there is nothing special about it. Her words: “It is like any other day to me. Every day is supposed to be a day of love. If a life is filled with love, it will flow on daily basis.”
Implications of Valentine’s day
Valentine’s Day comes and goes with its social consequences and implications among youths. Therefore, there is a need for young people to understand the implications and the risks involved in celebrating the day with immorality, according to experts.
Chief among these consequences, Mr Jonah Gwamna, a Youth Counselor said, “is the feeling of infatuations, that is the unreasonable feelings of love that one has for a short time that goes along with the day, coupled with immoral expression of such love” . He added that other possible negative implications of this celebration are “unwanted pregnancy leading to abortion, contraction of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), emotional disorder resulting from heartbreaks and sometimes breakup as a result of financial incapability to exchange gifts with ones lovers”.
For Mrs Mainasara, “ the fact that February 14 is also unofficially marked as world condom day; a day where free contraceptives are distributed to people, including young people, speaks volume of the sexual perversion that takes place that day”. She advised young people to abstain from premarital sex and instead explore friendship, build self-esteem and aim for self-actualization – which are all sweeter than sex”.
She concluded that “the time has come when all youths have to be taught about the depth in the genuine meaning of love. Let them be aware that real love is not meant to be celebrated in just one day of the year and Valentine is just a western idea. If the need to celebrate love on Valentine day arises, common sense and morality are expected to be applied and people must not be financially indebted because of Valentine”.
As the world celebrates next Wednesday, it is doubtful if this advice will be heeded.