14 February 2008

The Valentine Avalanche

Valentine’s Day is celebrated with a difference in Nigeria. Everyone celebrates it as if it’s Christmas. There is a happy Valentine’s Day wish awaiting you everywhere you go from all and sundry. I even got a happy Valentine’s wish from my broker and his sidekick. Explaining its importance, he told me of a friend who is closing early to celebrate Valentine with 'his children’. To my shock and horror, I also received a happy Valentine’s text message from a married lady who I know had no sinister motive. I was at a loss on how to respond to what is a perfectly an innocent message from another man’s wife.

I guess coming from England where Valentine's Day is strictly a private affair between couples who are romantically linked, it’s a culture shock to be confronted with this Valentine avalanche.

When I took this up with a cousin, he couldn’t understand why I was stressing. In Lagos, Valentine’s Day is seen as a time to show love to all, not just to someone with whom you are romantically linked. He explained that Churches send Valentine’s wishes to their congregations irrespective of relationship status or age.

Even children were asked to wear red to school today and to exchange gifts. This is another interesting aspect; Lagosians have somehow forced the colour red down the throat of St Valentine. My wife made the mistake of wearing a red blouse today and narrated her experience. People she met felt that she was celebrating Valentine’s Day. She was given a heart shaped pouch with a red ribbon containing sweets at the Corporate Office of Intercontinental Bank. Tied to the ribbon was this note:

‘With love from Intercontinental Bank PLC - Call Centre 01 277 2000’

There you go. If you need some love, contact Intercontinental Bank PLC Nigeria.

Not to be outdone, today’s newspapers were littered with ‘happy valentine’s messages from companies. I can understand that these things – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter are now commercially driven, however I thought that Valentine’s Day is about romance. I guess with Lagos and Nigeria, I was wrong. As a true Lagosian therefore, this is to wish everybody a very Happy Valentine’s Day. PostCardfromLagos