'BE MY VALENTINE' what really comes to mind when we speak those words? What is valentine all about? How did it all start ad most of all are we exhibiting the true meaning of valentine in Ghana? Why is valentine such a big occasion?
Wondering how to begin answering all these questions? Well, get on my boat and let's start cruising from the shores of history to find out the origin and purpose of valentine; then perhaps, we can judge If Ghanaians are really celebrating valentine.
According to some experts, Valentine's Day celebration originated from a Christian martyr called St. Valentine, a Roman priest who refused to give up his religion and was killed on the 14th of Febraury as a result. Legend also has it that he left a farewell note for his friend, the jailer's daughter; it was signed “from your Valentine'.
Others also say that the early Christian Church in Rome desired to do away with pagan element in the traditional feasts thus Saint Valentine's Day came to replace the pagan feast of 'Lupercalia'.
Before we put ourselves in St. Valentine's shoes, lets look at what the history books has to say:
In the ancient Roman Empire, February 14th was a holiday to honor the queen of all the Roman gods “Juno”. She was the goddess of women and marriage. Thus you would agree with me that love and marriage were very important to the Romans in this era; especially from 14th February when the feast of Lupercalia was celebrated.
During these pagan feasts, names of young women were placed in a box and the men would choose. This way, young people would select their marriage partners.
You can imagine how sad the people were when Emperor Claudius II cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Wondering why he would do an outrageous thing like that?
Well, Emperor Claudius also known as 'Claudius the Cruel' was a bloodthirsty military leader. He was furious when he found out that his men refused to join his armies; he believed the reason was because of their lovers and families.
St Valentine was a priest in Rome during this time and out of love for his people, he risked his life by performing secret marriages for them.
Oh…perhaps, we should enact the rest of the story in St Valentine's voice:
My name is valentine and all that have been said can be accepted. Well one day, whiles performing a secret wedding ceremony, we heard footsteps. We were really frightened! But thank God, the couple I was marrying escaped in time. I was caught and dragged before the Prefect of Rome. God, was I frightened! I was sentenced to face the gallows or what you modern people would call capital punishment. Whiles in jail, many young people came to visit me with flowers and wonderful notes; they took away my fear. One of such wonderful persons was the jailer's daughter. On 14th February, 269A.D. the day I was to die, I left a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. I signed it 'love from your Valentine'; perhaps that's what love is all about. Before I was beheaded, I knew I will be remembered
It is quiet obvious that 'Valentine Day' was cooked out of sacrifice, devotion, selflessness, loyalty and friendship; perhaps in one word, LOVE. Is this really what we have been celebrating all these years?
It is depressing to know that the rate of promiscuity is most evident on Valentine's Day. On 14th February, 2005, it was reported in the news that there was shortage of condoms in the city of Accra. Lust and love are two very different things and it is about time that we correct the misconception that the best way to express love is through sex.
What about the common issue of lovers quarrelling on this day set aside for love? Would you believe it if I told you that in 2004, three of my friends broke up their love relationships on Valentine's Day?
I bet you know of similar cases. There is also the common case of people having several lovers and haven to choose between them on Valentine's Day!
St Valentine was killed because of his selflessness, affection, friendship and a deep sense of desire to see his people happy. It had nothing to do with sex. Valentine means a special day set aside to celebrate the true human affection; love.
Tell you what; just that simple smile, simple gift, simple apology or act of kindness this Valentine is the best way to say 'BE MY VALENTINE!'