If you have ever worked in media or sales, you know that many marketing campaigns revolve around holidays. There is always a plan to push products centered around the different holiday seasons. After Christmas is over, and even before the Christmas trees and décor have been put away, the new push for sales and advertisements focuses on back-to-school products, followed by Valentine’s Day products, and the list continues.
Everything has become commercialized, and there is often nothing for free. I once read somewhere that if you are not paying for something, you are the product. Think about it; we often join social media platforms for free, but in reality, our data is being collected and used to target advertisements.
Valentine’s Day, set on February 14th, has evolved into a day marked by the exchange of cards, flowers, and gifts. It’s a time when social media feeds flood with images of grand gestures of love. However, behind the glossy veneer lies a thriving season for businesses that propagate the notion that love is best expressed through purchased gifts or luxurious holidays. But is this truly the essence of love, or have we allowed external pressures to redefine it?
The origin of Valentine’s Day is not clear. A quick scout through the internet shows that it is associated with various legends. One popular theory involves a Christian martyr named Saint Valentine, who defied a Roman emperor’s decree against marriages for young men. Valentine continued to perform marriages in secret and was eventually discovered and executed on February 14th. Another legend portrays him as a sympathetic figure helping Christians escape Roman prisons. As Africans, we sometimes find ourselves adopting traditions without fully understanding their roots, perhaps influenced by what we’ve seen in movies.
I remember one Valentine’s Eve when my husband came home late from shopping for a gift; he narrated the chaos in the Central Business District of Nairobi as men scurried like headless chickens, desperately seeking the perfect gift (poor last-minute shoppers). The pressure was palpable, fueled by the fear of facing the consequences of not meeting the societal expectations of this day of love.
This got me thinking, is Valentine’s Day becoming a burden? Are we cheapening love by reducing it to material expressions on a specific day? Must love be defined by expensive gifts or elaborate gestures? What really is love and how is it expressed?
I pondered how our grandparents expressed love in a simpler time. In many African societies, love was conveyed through poetic gestures, heroism, and traditional songs and dances. It felt organic, rooted in culture. Perhaps, love is expressed according to the cultural norms of the day.
In contemplating the essence of love, the timeless definition from 1st Corinthians 13 comes to mind.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Is your partner patient with you? Are they kind? Are they there to listen to you and cheer you on? Does your partner forgive you when you fall short? Do they stand with you through every circumstance? That is the true sign of love. Even if you do not get the gift you want on this commercialized day, consider all these other factors over the other 364 and a quarter days you are together. Love is much more than a gift on Valentine’s Day.
For those not in a relationship or experiencing the pain of a recent breakup, Valentine’s Day can be triggering. It serves as a reminder of what is absent or lost. To you, I extend wishes for self-care, self-love, and the embrace of loved ones during this potentially triggering day.
In conclusion, let this February be a celebration of love that transcends material expressions and societal expectations. Love is not a one-day affair; it’s a journey woven through the fabric of each day. So, as you navigate the intricacies of expressing love, remember: love is not a transaction; it’s a heartfelt connection, it is a choice and it is often a verb.
Disclaimer: Should you not get a gift for your loved one after conviction over this article, all consequences are solely on you. 🙂
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Mercy is a wife and mommy of 3: one amazing boy here and two boys in heaven. If not writing or playing with her son Manuel, you'll find her wherever people are: talking, encouraging, sharing a meal and having a good laugh! She is a media professional and counselling psychologist who seamlessly combines her passion for communication and her desire to encourage people. Through her writing, she aims to share her faith, wisdom and insights gained from her diverse background and lived experience offering readers a fresh perspective on healing. She is the author of the book “Hope for a Grieving Heart” and leads support groups for women who are going through child loss. Join her on her mission to inspire and uplift through her words. Her Social Media handles are @mercysmiley on Instagram and Mercy Chege Omari on Facebook.