What is Valentine’s to us?

Valentine’s Day is here. Yay or nay? A close friend of mine strongly believes that if one is single this time of year, they should literally hide themselves in their houses/homes and hibernate. Anything to avoid the awkwardness that is being out and about and alone on Valentine’s. Confronted, yes confronted, by others’ displays of affection all around, an unceasing reminder that you are alone, that this holiday is not for you.

Several years ago I spent a few months in Australia and happened to be there over Valentine’s. Surprisingly, Valentine’s came and went without drawing much notice from anyone! Except the Kenyans…ha ha! The land down under really is down under. This was a stark difference from what we are used to here.

In Kenya, you know Valentine’s is coming by the time mid-January is here. The MONTH of love! Not just a day, but a month! It is better for business that this hype last a month, more time to pile on the social pressures that push you to believe you need to buy and buy and buy to prove your love! Valentine’s special this and a big concert there, guys stressed by the fact that they may not be able to afford the kind of Valentine’s their love deserves, girls mostly feeling pressure from each other as they share plans of what their partners have planned and the singles being drawn together by their status, wondering how to keep each other company or where to hide in isolation.

I reckon you have heard about Kempinski’s Valentine’s Special? A 5.4 million Valentine’s offer dubbed ’50 shades of Valentine’s’. What better way to show your love than by being lavish! I’m always saying that if one has the money, let them spend it. The package includes a convoy of limousines pick up from wherever you are, two nights stay in the presidential suite, a sky city and Mara excursion and a special spa session. To top it all off, there is also a custom set of diamond jewelery for the lady and white diamond cuff links for the gentleman.

The article I read reported that this offer had already drawn 6 contenders, all of them Kenyans! Kenyans have money!!!! Let them spend it. Money is a resource. At least they are spending it on the one they love, hopefully.

Honestly, all that sounds wonderful. If it be in your means to spend and spoil extravagantly, go ahead, but this is not the only option and I am distressed by the fact that the media tries to make it seem so. The media preaches extravagance as the one and only sure way of expressing your love. I was not shocked to stumble upon an advertisement for a loan, a ‘Flexi-loan’, it has been dubbed, ‘…to pay for your Valentine’s get-away and enjoy amazing discounts.’ Have we really gotten to a point where we believe that spending money is the ultimate show of love and one would go to the extent of getting a loan for this purpose?

What was Valentine’s before it became an exclusively expensive and extravagant affair though?

Saint Valentine was a bishop who lived in the third century in Rome. At the time, Rome was under constant attacks from some of it’s neighbours and the emperor banned marriage believing that his soldiers were stronger and more effective without the distraction of love.

Saint Valentine held the law of the church and helped lovers who came to him, uniting them in holy matrimony, but it was only a matter of time before the Emperor heard about this and had him arrested.

Valentine was imprisoned. While waiting for his sentence, his jailor Asterius approached him to use his saintly power, and heal his blind daughter. Valentine succeeded and her sight was restored — they became close and fell in love.

After a while, the Emperor tried to make a deal with Valentine but Valentine refused to give up his religion and vowed to keep helping young lovers get married.

Just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper and signed a farewell message to his lover, “from your Valentine”; a phrase that lived ever after.

Besides that origin story, there are other little traditions that are associated with it. Before all the commercialization began, Valentine’s might have just been intended to be fun for everyone, singles, couples, the young and the old.

In Japan, Valentine’s is celebrated on 2 different dates, February 14th and March 14th. On the first date, the female gives a gift to the male and on the second date…known as White Day and supposedly introduced by a marshmallow company in the 1960s…the male has to return the gift he received on February 14. Thus, strictly speaking, a Japanese female has the luxury of actually choosing her own gift. Chocolate is the most popular gift in Japan. However, since most Japanese females believe that store-bought chocolate is not a gift of true love, they tend to make the confection with their own hands.

In Italy, Valentine’s Day was once celebrated as a Spring Festival, held in the open air, where young people would gather in tree arbors or ornamental gardens to listen to music and the reading of poetry.

I particularly like this tradition because people came together to literally just celebrate love without feeling the need to label themselves and each other as ‘taken’, ‘single’, ‘searching’ and the likes.

In Scotland, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with a festival. At this festival, there is an equal number of unmarried males and females, each of whom write their name (or a made-up name) on a piece of paper which is then folded and placed into a hat…one hat for the ladies and one for the men. The females then draw a name from the hat containing the men’s names and vice versa. Of course, it is highly likely that the two drawn names will not match, in which event, it is usually expected that the male partner with the female who selected his name. This rite having been completed, the company split up into couples and gifts are given to the ladies. The females would then pin the name of their partner over their hearts or on their sleeves. A dance often follows and, at the end of the festival, it is not unusual for marriages to take place. According to another Scottish custom, the first young man or woman encountered by chance on the street or elsewhere will become that individual’s valentine. Valentine’s Day gifts in Scotland are frequently given by both parties in the form of a love-token or true-love-knot.

and as in the case above, in some places it seems Valentine’s was a tool for pairing young people off. A space for young people to literally search for and find love in the time before technology. Love in the time before Facebook, Tinder and the likes.

I will likely be the cliché that wears red on Valentine’s because it is my absolute favourite colour, why would I not wear red on this day when so many others will be wearing it too! Valentine’s is every red-lover’s dream I tell you! However you spend it, whether donned in all red and traipsing all around town with a bouquet of flowers or riding around in a limo as you head to your sky Mara excursions or going to church and coming home to bum before heading back to school, that’s me, do have a lovely weekend!

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