Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What are your plans for St Valentine’s Day?

On February 14, that is in the  next 48 hours,  it will be Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, a day set aside worldwide to celebrate love. According to Wikipedia, “A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing wedding 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. ….before his execution he wrote her a letter signed, “Your Valentine” as a farewell”.  Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for centuries since the 1700s. According to the Greeting Card Association, about 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are purchased each year.
In Nigeria, we do celebrate in myriads of ways. Already, radio, T.V and newspaper adverts are running per second on musical concerts, films and comedy shows scheduled for the day across the country. Hoteliers and restaurateurs are not left out; they’re also offering mouth-watering offers for their customers. Some are giving heavy discounts on rooms and meals, particularly dinners for couples and families who come to patronise them.  Many traders in gift items have also gone to stock their shops with branded gifts that could be purchased as souvenirs or mementoes.  Some folks are also heading for their fashion designers to have them sew a new cloth usually with a touch of red, which is the official valentine colour, in order to celebrate the day.
Among the youths, particularly boys, it is also that time to go “toast” the “babe” they have been eying. I once did, while in school. I remember buying a lady I admired a “Be My Val’s card” while at the Ogun State Polytechnic, now Moshood Abiola Polytechnic. Usually, the lover boy will go buy a romantically worded “Val’s card” and gifts such as perfumes, wristwatches, mobile phones, flowers and any other things they can afford and assume will catch the fancy of the lady. These gifts are either sent through a third party; a family friend or a friend to the lady, or personally presented to the lady at an agreed rendezvous which might be the lady’s house or restaurant. It does work for a lot of people as ladies in need of suitors look forward to this expression of love which sometime culminates in marriage. However, nothing stops a lady who admires  a guy to ask him out this season and pamper him with gift and sumptuous meal. So, it’s another opportunity for lovebirds struck with Cupid’s arrow to make their feelings known to each other.
Valentine celebration is however not only for the youths. It’s for all – young or old, male or female, Christian or Muslim, black or white, literate or illiterate, able-bodied or physically challenged, married or single.  We all can share in the joy of Valentine season. Couples have another chance to rekindle their love for each other. A visit to the cinema or a musical show followed up with a private candle lit dinner will just be an ideal way to celebrate the day. Exchange of gifts between couples as well as between them and their children is also in order.
I must however say that it will be inappropriate to borrow to celebrate this day. He who goes a-borrowing, goes a –sorrowing, says the adage. We should all celebrate within our means.  Wives should not put pressure on their husbands to buy them expensive gifts or take them out to exclusive restaurants when they know they cannot afford it. It is not the price of the gift or food that should matter but the motive.  Even if there is no money to buy gifts and eat out,  you can still make the day memorable for your family by sending your spouse romantic text messages and preparing the family’s favourite dish. You can, as a family, watch interesting movies together and end the day with a candle-lit dinner at home. It’s not a rule that you must celebrate Valentine’s Day out. Each one should do according to the level of grace.
The day should however not be about self-indulgence alone but should be another opportunity to show love to the less-privileged and the needy. It is a chance to do charity work. Individuals, families, groups and organisations can gather resources and pay visit to orphanages, hospitals, prisons, and rehabilitation centres to make cash and material donations that will help other people to solve or alleviate their problems. Even, community service such as offer of free counselling, legal representation (legal aid), clearing neighbourhood of refuse, filling potholes on community roads, and repair of public utilities like community schools and health centres are part of good deeds we all can do in this season of love.  As the saying goes, there is love in sharing and anyone you’re capable of giving a helping hand is your neighbor.
 In the spirit of this season of love, I also challenge us to demonstrate our affection for this suffering motherland. Let us pray for the welfare of Nigeria and shun all vices that have contributed to her underdevelopment. Our political, economic, religious and cultural leaders should use the opportunity of this year’s Saint Valentine’s Day to reflect on how we can make this country a better place to live and resolve to put those thoughts into practice. We the followers too should show love by eschewing acts of brigandage, sabotage and all manner of evil deeds that have pulverised the country. We should remember that the country belongs to all and we all owe it a duty to seek and promote her welfare.
Valentine’s Day is not only for toasting, boozing and other acts, it is also for sharing, caring, praying, and resolving to work for public good. Happy Valentine’s Day, in advance.