EUGENE AKPATSA writes: Valentine, a day of varying beliefs, expressions

EUGENE AKPATSA, Level 300 Law student

February 14 is commemorated in modern times by lovers all over the world with joy and fun despite its tear dropping origin and concurrent controversies. There are varying beliefs on the antecedents and how February 14 became connected with merrymaking, romance and the colour red, which some believe signifies strong erotic feelings.

Sources reveal that there were more than one Saint Valentine. There were three(3), they say. And to them, all three lived around the same time (the 3rd century A.D.). Two lived in Italy; Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni, while the third resided in a Roman province in North Africa.

Despite the fact that all three had a mutual connection to the Romans, the narrative of St. Valentine, the priest of Rome, is widespread and held and believed to be true. It is narrated that under the rule of Emperor Claudius II also referred to as Claudius the Cruel in the 3rd century A.D., Rome engaged in a series of unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong force. He realized able men preferred to spend time with their women and families than to join the army. In view of this, Emperor Claudius banned marriages and engagements in Rome. The priest as at then, St. Valentine thought it was unconscionable for the emperor to have made such a decree, he defied same by surreptitiously performing marriage rites for young lovers and some of the soldiers.

When Valentine’s dealings were uncovered, he was arrested and sentenced to death. He was to be beaten up with clubs and decapitated for performing marriage rites contrary to the Emperor’s decree. His decapitation is said to have occurred on February 14, on either AD 269 or 270.

It is believed that whilst in custody he prepared a farewell missive to JULIA, a lady he had cured of blindness and signed it “From Your Valentine”. Julia is said to be the jailer’s daughter and the said letter sought to inspire her and her household to be Christlike. This part may be the roots to the signing of cards and exchange of letters by lovers on this day.

While some are of the opinion that this day is to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death others believe that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day on this day in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia when Pope Gelasius I eliminated the celebration of Lupercalia and declared February 14 a day to celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Valentine instead. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

Lupercalia is believed to have been associated with nudity, sexuality, rites of sacrifice, feasting, and games. There are suggestions to rituals of Lupercalia and how it is linked to Valentine’s Day. It is suggested that the colour red associated with this day is symbolic of the bloody rituals during Lupercalia.

The attribution of romance or erotic element to this day is partly credited to Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet and author of the Middle Ages, a time it was commonly believed in England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season. His “Parlement of Foules”, a romantic poem writing, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” This is a romantic line, which alluded to Valentine’s Day (February 14) as a special day for lovers and for lovemaking. This poem was published in 1375, long after the execution of the Priest of Rome, Valentine.

The observance of this day in recent years has been characterized by the expression of love through cards or letters, exchange gifts, and merrymaking. This day equally sets the foundation for love affair for others. People confess their love and affection for those they harbour admiration for.

This day is not just Valentine’s Day in Ghana. It coincides as Chocolate Day. February 14 was instituted by the Ghana Tourism Authority in collaboration with the Cocoa Processing Company, Ghana Cocoa Board and other stakeholders in 2005 as Chocolate Day, to create awareness on the need for Ghanaians to patronise cocoa products and to help generate more revenue for national development. Hence it is common to present chocolates to loved ones to commemorate this day in Ghana. This day is noted as one of the days the demand and consumption of chocolate are high among Ghanaians. Activities for the commemoration of this year’s Chocolate Day will be held under the theme; “My Chocolate Experience, My holistic Wellbeing”. This is yet another laudable step stakeholders in the cocoa industry have taken to aid development in the country.

However, reports from some sources reveal that condoms and other birth control devices especially the emergency pills and sex-enhancing drugs have been on higher demands and or shortage of same on February 14 over the years.

Is there a correlation between this development and the ancient FERTILITY FESTIVAL dedicated to Faunus and the Roman founders above??

Despite all the varying beliefs and opinions held about this day, it is understandable that it has evolved over time but remains a day marked by eminence and distinctive aura for many people across the world.

About the Writer:

EUGENE AKPATSA

Level 300 Law student
E: eugeneakpatsa@gmail.com
T: 0241013421

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