Valentine’s Day: Celebrating Your Way!

About Eritrea - Art & Sport

Let me guess, you are running around trying to find something nice on Valentine’s Day for your significant other and it just so happens that you have stopped to buy the news paper and bang! Today’s article is on Valentine’s Day. My apologies, dearest reader, better get a move on. I heard a box of chocolates, flowers and jewelry will do the trick!

It is that part of the year again and I am quite aware that people-at least those who are in a relationship- are running wild trying to figure out what to do or get for their better half.

Of course, by now, we all had heard the story of Saint Valentine, a bishop during the rule of Emperor Claudius II. The bishop used to perform secret marriage ceremonies against the rules of the Emperor, who supposedly prohibited marriage because he thought marriages made men weak and issued an edict forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers, only to find a certain man named Saint Valentine was marrying couples in a secret place. The Emperor had him imprisoned and killed and that is how 14 of February became known as “Valentine’s day” and reserved for lovers.

Now I am not here to write about Saint Valentine and bore you half to death with what you can basically find in Wikipedia but rather put emphasis on how much its importance has grown over the years in Eritrea. One can blame globalization or the ever-growing influence of western culture but I do believe love has no boundaries and doesn’t differentiate between cultures and same goes here. It was just a matter of time before its importance grew in Eritrea. And about four or five years ago its wave of seduction started affecting public service givers such as pubs, boutiques, flower shops and restaurant all over Asmara. Who started advertising the supposed holiday? For the shopkeepers, it is just another day of cashing in from the day. Just like a herdsman waits for New Year and Christmas to sell a couple of Sheep for a ridiculous amount of money.

Valentine’s Day has evolved from a day that honors Saint Valentine to a day that is associated with the feelings of love, from the passionate desire and intimacy of romantic love to the nonsexual emotional closeness of familial love, which is more platonic in nature. In fact this is one celebration that has lost the significant association with its origin. Valentine's Day, which always had a religious basis, has evolved over the years into a day that celebrates love in its various forms and degrees. 'Why' is now no longer as important as 'How' in terms of celebrating Valentine’s day.

Valentine's Day is one of the most 'adaptable' occasions; it has been accepted and celebrated in variety of ways all over the globe since it became popular. That has resulted in the celebration having taken a different flavor with differences in places, regions and cultures across the world.

Basically, for anybody in a relationship these days, Valentine’s Day MATTERS. And just like it had been celebrated for hundreds of years in European countries, in Eritrea also Valentine's Day has become the ideal occasion to show your partner or spouse just what they mean to you, whether you're a sentimental traditionalist who wants to give the ever-dependable flowers and chocolates or someone with more individual ideas with a personal twist.

Come Valentine`s Day, what do red-blooded Asmarino men buy for their women-and, increasingly, women for their men? A box of chocolates and flowers! It is a trend that has become popular with the day itself.

Picture this: a couple sitting down to a candlelight dinner, looking longingly into each other`s eyes, while sampling an elegantly prepared meal. He presents her with flowers and perhaps a sophisticated piece of jewelry. She gives him the most romantic and thoughtful gift she found while shopping for hours. And they spend the rest of the evening discussing love and romance. That is what happens in Asmara on Valentine’s Day.

Red is the color of the day of course. Famous pubs and restaurants around Asmara are all decorated with Red Ribbons, Balloons, fresh set of flowers everywhere and candle lights on the tables signifying the day.

Couples are guests of the day. Men wearing immaculate Suits and Women looking stunning in their perfectly fitting dresses.

Which reminds me of a piece a certain Mebrahtu Asfha who once wrote, “Although in our Eritrean tradition Valentine is an alien notion, every day is a little Valentine for Eritrean lovers. Indeed, an outward expression of passion and romantic love may culturally be unknown, but the love of the heart with its rightful meaning of the human condition is manifested daily among Eritrean lovers. Interestingly, Eritrean lovers are empowered not only by the event of Valentine to walk together as lovers, wherever they may be in the world, but by the great sense of tradition, that is, the consciousness out of which we live as people.” I couldn’t have said it any better.

You can resist the pressure to conform to Valentine Day’s ritual and expectation if you want, like I do, especially if your relationship is secure without it. And feel free to resist it even if you’re just starting to date someone; after all, Valentine’s Day is a great chance to find out how much social pressure and expectation means to him or her.

Moreover, Valentine’s Day on western societies has been overtaken by cooperation which basically want to cash in big on the day and commercialism has created a big hype which is somewhat facile and insincere, becoming unbearable to couples. The week leading up to it; is seen as laborious, along with all the usual hype and hullabaloo, the day which is filled with plenty of cynicism-a consequence of the hype- for me it is somewhat humorous. Because, some call it the “Make it or Break it day of romance” implying to the non-sensible beliefs that relationships are made or destroyed on Valentine’s Day. My personal favorite is “Valentine’s Day is a put up or shut up day”. No need for clarifications there.

These bogus ideas about Valentine’s Day have created cynicism about love and romance. Finally, I know we live in a terribly unsentimental time, when so many of us are detached and apathetic, but we will continue to value love and romance—and I suspect many of us do.