This week, every little place I know will be filled with various messages of Valentine. It may be in the virtual world, on platforms over social media, or on busy streets of cities around the world. Florists and hoteliers will be busier than ever before as they provide service to love drenched men and women.
I started by looking at Stephanie Modkins’ article “Valentines’ day around the globe; How other cultures celebrate” and she highlights a number of countries. In the UK, she notes that couples and non-couples gather together in the name of love and celebrate by giving cards, candy and flowers. However, they do have a unique tradition involving children. Children sing sweet songs in order to get gifts in the form of candy and fruit. Also, single women believe that the first man they see on Valentine’s Day morning will be their future husband. It is a great way to keep certain men from walking by a specific house on Valentine’s Day and another way of getting certain men to camp out all night.
In South Africa, young couples celebrate this day with friends by going out to dinner. Also, tourist attractions like wild life parks, sanctuaries, Cape Town and Soweto are ‘hot’ hang outs. Some people also honour a Roman festival called “Lupercalia”. In this festival, young women and men pin their names on their lover’s sleeves. It’s a way to acknowledge their attraction openly and express deep feelings.
Moving over to Europe, in Spain, Valentine’s Day is an elaborate celebration. Men and women spend the day with their significant others in order to express their love. Roses are popular gifts that men give to their wives. Other gifts are given as well in order to honour the love in one’s life. Valentine’s Day is a great day for street vendors as well, who sell a variety of gifts to people trying to celebrate the day.
In Brazil, Valentine’s Day is not celebrated, but is replaced with a similar holiday called Boyfriend’s/Girlfriend’s Day. It is celebrated on June 12th and is a time in which lovers give each other flowers, cards, chocolates and other gifts in the name of love.
In the U.S., Valentine’s Day is a huge celebration in which lovers, family and friends exchange cards, candy, gifts and go to events. A popular activity is for two lovers to go out to dinner. It’s a way to express love through a fun activity.
I am well aware of the practice in Uganda and probably it will reflect on many of the surrounding countries. Valentines is a practice that we have borrowed from the West and incorporated in our festivities. It began as a religious celebration but just as Christmas or Easter, it has come to be a cultural celebration. In my lingua, this day is known as “Olunaku lw’abagalana”, Day of lovers, and indeed couples or intending couples look forward to getting a special treat from their loved ones. Black and red has also become the official wear for valentines’ day and if you walked the streets of Kampala on February 14th, you would get to see it painted in red.
As a young boy in elementary/primary school, I remember how we used to pass on little notes with drawings of hearts on them to that one girl you had been eyeing. Young as we were, this day meant something to us; perhaps a lesson we copied from the older generation. Even when our pick up lines were lame; “I will love you till Lake Victoria dries up”, our intentions were purely in the spirit of valentines’.
As I did some research on whether there was a valentines’ day celebration in my culture, I came to learn that Valentine as it is known and inspired, is a foreign concept for us but we Â had our way of celebrating love and thanking those who meant a lot to us. African people in the past used to sit around fire to celebrate love and often we would have communal dances where suitors would get to mark out their loved ones and express their feeling. Our men and women sang songs in praise of their partners and found a way of appeasing them. For women, it would always be in the service of a well cooked meal while the men would give more material things like clothing, game, food, ornaments and so on.
The world will go red on February 14th and I wish you all a great celebration. Remember to tell all those you love how much they mean to you. I will remember to do the same.
Sending you love from an overly hot Kampala!