Valentine’s Day vs Ash Wednesday: When love meets sacrifice

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day set aside to show love. Of course, we are all meant to show love every day, but February 14 of every year is set aside to do it specially. The day means different things to different people.

Some people will be getting married today. They see it as a big deal to get married on a day set aside globally to celebrate love. Of course, some others who did that some years back will be celebrating their wedding anniversary today.

Some people somewhere will be proposing to their partners today. You know that proposal is a big business now. Event planners will be contracted, a spacious hall rented, and a crowd of spectators hired or invited.

A saxophonist or DJ will not take the back seat; they must be dishing out love songs. While that is going on, the engagement ring will surface depending on the style Mr Loverboy decides to adopt. He can hide the ring inside a cup of ice cream, or a cupcake meant for Lovergirl. If he wants to make it more dramatic, he may go on his knees like one who has a confession to make, dip his hand inside his pocket and bring out the ring.

While the lady is trying to understand fully what is playing out, then the spectators, like a mass choir, will begin to chorus, “Say yes! Say yes!” The lady will then begin to pretend as if she is thinking about it. Then, the word “yes” will drop, and the crowd will shout the way Nigerian fans shouted whenever the Super Eagles scored a goal in the just-concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.

Today, many will appear in a touch of red and white. Even schools are not spared. Some school managements had informed parents on the kind of outfits their children and wards are expected to adorn today.

Some fun spots – eateries, drinking joints, cinemas etc. – will be full to the brim. Of course, there will be an exchange of gifts. Special gifts for the season are available in all supermarkets, ranging from roses to chocolates and other more expensive stuff.

Some people will pretend nothing is going on around them because they don’t want to spend money. Those are the ones called “Oshofree.” Those persons would have been reading from the book of lamentation since last week just to prepare the minds of their partners that there may not be any cash to spare for frivolities. They would have lamented that the price of petrol per litre is now N700. They would have reminded their partners that a 50kg bag of rice is now N80,000 depending on the brand and the location. They will not forget to add that while prices of goods are going up, their salaries have remained the same. After all these, who in her right senses will still be expecting a Valentine’s gift from such a partner?

Others will deliberately be unreachable during this period. I remember a tweet I read last week. A man tweeted at a state police command, asking that he should be arrested and released to his wife a day after Valentine’s Day. The handler of the police command’s X (formerly Twitter) got the joke and replied that the police would not support him in evading his responsibility to his wife.

Some other activities, details of which I will not give here, will also be held in commemoration of Valentine’s Day. I have mentioned a few of those that can be proudly held in public. I won’t fall into the temptation of mentioning those things that people are planning to do behind the curtains.

However, in my way of showing love, I will call attention to the warning that the National Agency for the Control of AIDS handed down ahead of today. The agency, in a statement on Monday, signed by the Head of the Public Relations and Protocol Unit, Toyin Aderibigbe, urged Nigerians to protect themselves and prioritise their safety and well-being while expressing affection during Valentine’s season.

“In light of the ongoing global health situation, NACA encourages the public to prioritise their safety and well-being while expressing affection on Valentine’s Day,” the statement noted. NACA also stated that it would conduct comprehensive awareness campaigns on Valentine’s Day to educate the public about the significance of both abstinence and safe sex practices. “The agency aims to create an environment where love is celebrated responsibly, fostering a community that is both supportive and health-conscious,” it added. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.

Meanwhile, beyond Valentine’s Day, today is also Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40-day Lenten season leading up to Easter Sunday. It is almost the direct opposite of Valentine’s Day in nature. While Valentine’s Day is about celebration, Ash Wednesday is more of a solemn assembly. Christians, especially those who belong to orthodox churches, are meant to observe the period with fasting, self-sacrifice, prayer and other religious activities.

In some of these orthodox churches, from Ash Wednesday till Saturday preceding Easter Sunday, there will be no beating of drums; the priests and the choristers appear in black robes among other ways of showing pertinence. In fact, in those days, no celebrations such as weddings or birthday services are allowed during this period.

This may also be an escape route for those I referred to as “Oshofree” earlier. They will flood their social media timelines and their status with Ash Wednesday messages, pretending as if they don’t know it is also Valentine’s Day. You will be reading stuff like “Ash Wednesday thing on point,” “Lent: 40-day fasting begins,” and “Holy, holy Lord” among others, from them.

They would rather invite their partners to the Ash Wednesday service than take them out. That is of course, not bad either. After all, man shall not live by bread alone. I hope I have not given somebody a clue on how to escape Valentine’s Day expenses.

In all, it is a good thing to celebrate in moderation. It is also a good thing to serve God. Like the words of that song: it is a great thing to serve the Lord, walk in the light of God!

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