I have a feeling that St Valentine’s Day this year would be drab and unusual. By now, the air should be filled with promotions of programmes targeted at ensuring that men and women have their fill of revelries.
A couple of years back, a federal university collaborated with one of the biggest banks in the country to “reduce” the incidence of HIV infections while celebrating St Valentine day. They planned an event and made condoms available to students so they could sow their wild oats without negative harvests.
That was a totally new one. I could not resist taking a quick journey back to my days in the university; I came back with no memory of any elaborate celebration of St Valentine’s Day. But things changed progressively. Youths began to get more daring and adventurous towards St Valentine Day as they organised activities and gained sponsorships from corporates. To catch the attention of the youth, more and more brands now struggle to leverage the Valentine opportunity.
I envy couples who go all the way on this day. I have friends who take romantic trips to exotic destinations all over the world, just to be away from the heartbreak that our country has become lately, I know people who make elaborate plans within the country. I no longer have the grace to invest so much energy, resources and time on February 14. Not after the experience I once had when I tried to follow the fad.
After returning from work the year after I got married, my wife and I thought we should go have dinner somewhere not too far from us. My God! We got the shock of our lives. Vehicular and human traffic to the destination we chose was incredible. We got there at last, only to be turned back because we made no prior bookings. That evening ended up being a very tortuous one for us as we encountered same horrible traffic on our way back.
We arrived back home from this journey of no accomplishment several hours later, totally exasperated. We then reached an accord to wit: to thenceforth save ourselves from stress and make every waking day valentine – a celebration of love, in our home. We also agreed not to wait until February 14 to show love to other people. Anyone who came our way would get a taste of the Almighty’s goodness to us in whatever way we could afford.
But what is the import of the day?
Valentine’s Day is in memory of a Priest who flouted the outlawing of marriages among soldiers by the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II, who because he was fighting many wars wanted a strong army but men did not want to be soldiers. Assuming that men refused to join his army and conquests because they wanted to stay with their wives, he criminalised marriages so neither woman nor child would distract men.
But this Priest felt that marriage would save men from the temptation of living with women out of wedlock. He gathered intending couples and joined them in secrecy. When the state caught up with him, he was arrested and brought before Claudius. The Emperor tried to dissuade him from his illegal acts but the priest refused, even preaching repentance to his captor!
The audacity infuriated Claudius and he ordered that the priest be sent to prison until he could be executed. Some accounts claim that while he was in prison, the priest performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer, Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household reportedly got converted and baptised into Christianity. Before his execution, the priest was also said to have written letters to his close friends coveting their prayers and signing these letter by writing: “Remember your Valentine.”
He was believed to have been executed on the 14th or the 24th of February in the year 269 A.D or 270. A.D. Two centuries later, around 498 A.D Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as a church sanctioned holiday in honour of a man who was martyred for the protection of the sanctity of holy matrimony.
So what to do on Valentine’s Day? Spare a thought for someone; find time to pray that we will continue to understand the importance of happy, peaceful family units to the overall welfare of our society and our world; make those with whom God has blessed you happy and say a prayer that every soul in need finds someone to love.
That is, the real spirit of lovers’ day, something that our world needs dearly at this time.