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What Does Valentine's Day Really Mean? Nigerians Talk About the History and Meaning of the 'Lovers' Day'

Many people around the world celebrate Valentine's Day but not many people know about it's origin. Check out what Nigerians are saying about it.
 
 
Tuesday, many Nigerians who believe in Valentine’s Day will be celebrating. Incidentally, many celebrants of Valentine’s Day may or may not know its historical root. It is widely believed that the history of Valentine’s Day is obscure, however, several accounts exist.
 
One of such accounts can be traced to three Romans who incidentally bore the name Valentine. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name.
 
One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni, and the third, St. Valentine which almost nothing is known about, except that he met his end in Africa. Astonishingly, all the three Valentines were said to have been martyred on February 14.
 
St. Valentine the priest: Nonetheless, many believe that St. Valentine of the February 14  fame was a priest who attracted the disfavour of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270 AD. Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers than the married. 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.
 
Historical origins
 
Another version states that Valentine, who was imprisoned by Claudius II, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed: “from your Valentine.” A third account, which is probably the most plausible, provides that St. Valentine was not focused on passionate love, but on Christian love that claimed his life, as he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.
 
Valentine and love: In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable, thus, St. Valentine became one of the casualties. However, it was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love.
 
According to UCLA medieval scholar, Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, it was Chaucer who first linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance. In this light, Vanguard Learing sought the meaning of Valentine to students, the extent they go to celebrate it and its pros and cons in the student community.
 
Reacting to February 14 as Valentine’s Day, Ebere Ihezie, a second year student of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka said: “Valentine’s Day is trending on campus, even more trending than Ponzi schemes. However, it is trending more with girls than boys. It explains why they fall for the evil schemes men plot for them on Valentine’s day.
 
Why wait for one day? “What I do not understand is, why wait for a singular  day before showing love? If you have a partner and are in a good relationship, I dont 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.”
 
For Chinemerem Onuorah, there’s no difference between Valentine’s day and anyother 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.
 
Unlearnt lessons: “Some years back, a girl died in a hotel in Lagos during Val day. Though the news went far and wide, it didn’t stop another girl from falling victim the following year. For youths, they must not be stupid and reckless in the choices they make. I think the observance of Val’s day takes place mostly on campuses, because the campus comprises able-bodied men and women with raging hormones and appetite for pleasure and misconduct, they’ll want to try, see, and then regret.”
 
Speaking in same vein, Victoria Egbe, a student of Benue State University said: “Naturally, it is normal for youths, especially students, to exaggerate things. Valentine’s day is a day to show love to the less privileged and others but youths have made it a day for lovers to have fun and end up doing unimaginable things and making wrong decisions.”
 
Outrageous moral laxity
 
On her part, Chukwudera Eze of UNN said: “The reason for the season has been boycotted just like the reason for Christmas has also been changed to the celebration and propagation of material things and lust. The type of love that is being celebrated on Valentine’s Day is not even the one St. Valentine exhibited. That is, according to the story of how Valentine’s day came into existence. It is not quite their fault because they are trying to fit into the pattern of a society with outrageous moral laxity.
 
“Most students see it as a day set apart to celebrate their partners in a special way, and that special way entails taking him or her out, and finally having carnal knowledge of the person. This has made students who do not have anyone to take them out become desperate, and seek to find one at all cost, because to their misguided minds, any single person on 14th February isn’t ‘on point.”
 
Ezra Ihezie, a third year student of Economics from UNN said, “To me, Valentine is all about hanging out with your best friend, especially the opposite sex, and appreciating his/her contribution in your life. Although students have now redefined its meaning and attached a negative aspect to it. I still believe it has not lost its true meaning.”
 
Extreme measures for ‘love’ Secondary school students are not left out. Chisom Agwu, an SS2 student of one of the mixed federal unity schools, says students take extreme measures to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
 
Security checks
 
Her words; “I am a boarder and what usually happens in the dormitory is that the boys send day students to buy wine, chocolate and teddy bears for their girlfriends. They can’t bring it in at the beginning of the term because house masters check bags for contraband. Some day students are worse than boarders, they are too sharp. Security checks bags at the gate but they still find a way around it. Girls on the other hand buy things that are not obviously Valentine’s gift. They buy boxers, singlet, wristwatches, belts etc. Those items are not contraband.”
 
On where students get the money, she disclosed; “Some save their pocket money during the last term and holiday. Some ask uncles and aunts. They could also inflate prices of books and claim one of their house wares or pairs of uniform are missing. It is the same for girls but the expectation is more for boys.
 
“When the gifts arrive girls’ dorm they begin to compare and sometimes fights break out. The girl who feels her boyfriend didn’t package a good enough gift will most likely break up with him after Valentine.
 
Working class boyfriends
 
“Those that do not get gifts, that’s the worst, they break up dramatically. That’s why girls prefer working class boyfriends or university boys, they give better gifts that our school boys cannot compete with. But all those things are illegal. For us in girls’ dorm, our matron goes round and searches bags after Valentine. She knows what we do and she is very smart.”
 
Mafunu David, who attends a private secondary school in Delta State, said; “Being that we come from home daily, money is not an issue. Sometimes I ask my mum and she gives me money, but she doesn’t know it is to Val my girlfriend. I do not think there is anything wrong with appreciating her."
 
Rich love packages: “It is just that for us boys, it is competition. Those that have rich parents buy plenty items in the Valentine package. Because I am worried that I will not be able to cope, that is why I don’t have a girlfriend in my school, she attends the grammar school in my area. Meeting her needs is not so difficult.”
 
Worried over the lack of information of the true meaning of Valentine celebration and the abuse of it by students both at the secondary and tertiary levels, Mrs Yinka Ogunde, founder, Concerned Parents & Educators Forum said; “Certainly an interesting question. As I listened to two parents argue this out with passion and conviction, I realized this is a sensitive area that some parents are not comfortable with. Whilst some feel that it is important that children understand the realities of the world they live in, others feel that the kind of things they are exposed to must be processed. As we move towards the roses, chocolate, cakes, wine etc of February 14, the issue is educational institutions need to manage this day in a way that children would learn something of value from it.”
 
Okeleke Queen, Former Head, Security Services / Legal Adviser at Megavons West Africa Limited went against the idea of school children celebrating Valentine,  which according to her, is not our culture. “ I am of the opinion that our children in school should leave Valentine alone and face their studies and other extra-curricular activities. Certain questions should be asked here. What is the origin of Valentine’s Day? How does the celebration impact on their educational objectives. Are they mature enough to handle Valentine’s Day?
 
Unnecessary demand
 
"I have never encouraged my children to partake in it. In addition to the unnecessary demand made by some schools  for students to go hunting for red clothes and accessories, it is a sheer diversion of focus, misplaced priority and unwholesome appetite for the white man’s strange culture. Very soon, we will start celebrating Halloween.”
 
Focus on the curriculum: Another parent, Helen Essien,  Former Partner at Vincent Essien & Co said Valentine’s day celebrations should be left out of schools as a result of insufficient time for teaching. “Schools and teacher’s are always complaining that the school periods are not enough to cover the official curriculum. This is so bad that virtually all secondary schools run extension classes for their students. Stop eroding the school periods any further by celebrating needless extracurricular events.

“Most homes where these children are coming from celebrate Valentine’s day anyway, so let’s leave it at that. If a child wants to personally give a gift to a classmate, let it be done at home so that the other children don’t feel left out. I have my reservations about a student giving a teacher Valentine’s day gift. It is prone to abuse hence it should not be encouraged.” added the legal practitioner.
 
For Amadi Valentine, a 200 level student of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, said celebrating Valentine’s Day is all about genuine love and friendship but it seems some of the youth have abused it.” Speaking on how he is going to celebrate the day, Amadi said since getting a date is not a priority, he is going to use the time to concentrate more on his studies.
 
Bukola Ashonibare, a Masters student, University of Lagos, she hardly celebrates Valentine 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.”
 
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Via Vanguard

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