Like all other aspects of life and living, technology has changed the way we communicate, travel and engage in romantic relationships. All those grand gestures that were in vogue to profess love like delivering cards or letters, are gradually giving way to planned methods of making one’s intention known, just by tapping a few buttons on your smart device. Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha report

In a few days, it will be Valentine’s Day and the outpour of love and romance will fill the cyberspace. Already brands are keying into the various opportunities this special day of love offers to promote their products and services. Xovar Lounge in Lekki has a Valentine themed menu boasting of different courses. With a theme like ‘Love at First Taste’, it sells its unique ambiance and mouthwatering dishes to couples who prefer to have a candlelit dinner. Musicians are not left out in the melee. Praise, a runner-up of MTN Project Fame Season One, is having a romantic gig too. Alongside his friends, he will be serenading lovers with sweet love songs at the 2018 edition of Ribbons and Roses organised by Eddie Lawani and Associates. And for those who prefer to watch a movie at the cinema, the romantic comedy by EbonyLife, Royal Hibiscus Hotel, is already poised as the best movie for the season of love.

Decades ago, it was a different picture. Mostly in vogue in those days was exchange of greeting cards, love notes with the legendary signature ‘From Your Valentine’. Cakes and chocolate candies were part of the give-and-take.
But recent development in technology has changed all that, particularly when it comes to gift ideas. The internet has proven to be a better ally in getting the perfect gifts for ones.

It is common knowledge that technology has impacted vastly on the way we do things. So much convenience has been created from tasks that were previously achieved by taking many steps. Like all other aspects of life and living, technology has changed the way we communicate, travel and engage in romantic relationships. All of those grand gestures that were in vogue to profess love like delivering cards or letters, are gradually giving way to planned methods of making one’s intention known, just by tapping a few buttons on your smart device.

Social Media has changed the way we carry out conversations. Away from the traditional, face-to-face meeting, modern technology allows the privilege of knowing quite a bit about the person before meeting him/her. Many people now openly share personal information like birthday, age, gender, religion, and even family members on their profile on social medial sites like Facebook. Before now, these types of information could only be disclosed in bits in the course of the relationship.

With improvement in digital technologies, smartphones and mobile apps have increased the simplicity and speed with which we communicate with one another. In an article, ‘From Love Letters to Facebook Messages: Has Technology Ruined Romance?’ Leah Perry states: “Where there used to be landline phones and voicemails, there is now Facetime, Snapchat, and direct messaging. So when it comes to the “getting to know you” stage, most of the traditional processes that occur in this moment are avoided entirely with the help of social media. This allows for you to be able to judge a person before actually speaking to them, or meeting them face to face.”

For instance, Anita Aiyudu, an employee of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, relies on the internet for ideas on how to mark this special day. She usually visits online sites like the Lekki Gift Company including e-commerce sites like Dealdey for clues on what to give her partner.

“The internet has definitely affected how love is celebrated. So many people see what celebrities and other influencers do for Valentine and want to emulate them. These activities gather heavy momentum on social media and make it appealing to followers. On the flip side, the internet has helped a lot of people with various ideas on how to celebrate the day with a loved one within a budget,” she said.

In previous years, her partner usually sent flowers, cake, teddy bears to her office during the day and in the evening, they end up at a restaurant for a romantic dinner. This has eventually become the ideal way of spending the day.

However for Eby MaryJane, a 24 year old manager at a beverage company, she would rather stay off the internet on Valentine’s Day.

“I don’t celebrate Valentine, moreover the kind of love people express on the internet is too superficial,” she wrote in a Whatsapp chat. Single and a Christian, her reason for not marking the day she wrote, does not stem from her religious background.

“There shouldn’t be just a day to celebrate love. It should be every day.”
Anita also shared same view. She argued that contrary to the perception by many that the day is strictly for lovers, it is a day to show love not just to your lover but to those closest to you.
“In addition there’s a constant neglect for the origin of the celebration which is all about how far you’re willing to go to take care of and give to people around you just like the martyr, St. Valentine was known for,” she added.

The provenance of the Valentine’s Day tradition has been a bit murky or as New York Times put it in its 1853 edition, ‘it is one of those mysterious historical or antiquarian problems which are doomed never to be solved’.

A Fertility Festival
Legendary tales claim that the celebration originated from Ancient Rome. Back then, there was a fertility feast known as Lupercalia dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

The festival involved sacrificing a goat for fertility and a dog for purification by members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests. To complete the ritual, they would strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets where Roman women eagerly waited to be whipped by them. They believed that the touch of the hides will make them bear more children in the coming year.
The connection with love came later in the day, when all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

This barbaric festival was however outlawed in the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day.

Birds Mating Day
Another interesting origin of Valentine’s Day came from Europe during the Middle Ages. This time in England and France. It was believed that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Catholic Versions
Of all historic accounts, the ones that have stood the test of time are the stories from the Catholic Church. There are at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. There was the priest called Valentine who served during the third century in Rome. In those days, Emperor Claudius II was in power. It was said that the Emperor outlawed marriage for young men when he discovered that they made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius Another account suggested that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten There was also the famous Valentine who was imprisoned and actually sent the first “Valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl – possibly his jailor’s daughter – who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is believed that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

All three accounts of Valentine legends emphasised his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, Valentine had become one of the most popular Saints in England and France.

The Evolution of Valentine Day’s Celebration
As most regions of the world began to catch up on the February 14 love mania so did its form of expression. Each culture developed its styles of celebrating this unique day with the emphasis still on romance.
The earliest forms of Valentine greetings dated back to the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s surfaced after 1400. The oldest known Valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. It is also believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a Valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Nigeria, the tradition was gradually introduced. Initially, it was perceived as an event for the highbrow of the society who could afford to buy a greeting card, take a loved one out to a dinner or serenade her on the dance floor. But as the tradition caught up with people, it became an opportunity to write a love letter to the subject of one’s desire. It was not uncommon to find love letters tucked in pockets or desk lockers of one’s love interest.
The love letters created such a frenzy because of the legendary mystery that comes with the signature ‘From Your Valentine’. Often times, the recipient of the letters was left puzzled as she had no clue who Music was also part of Valentine celebration. Disc Jockeys made it a habit to compile romantic songs that portray the true feelings of the heart. This served as a good gift to a loved one.

Gradually, Valentine Day became a celebration for many and its colour red drove most fashion designers to make dresses of that vibrant colour. Many clamoured for the day to be a public holiday. That wish is yet to come true.
But as the fame grew, so did the abuse. The expression of love was given an immoral connotation which drew the ire of religious fanatics. They condemned the celebration and admonished abusers who used the day to engage in sexual immorality. With time, some churches began to tie relationship and marital events to the day in order to save souls.

Although, this tradition is as old as time, its relevance is gradually dwindling among millennial. Only a few percentage actually take note of the celebration. Another group actually take part in the celebration not necessarily because they want to but because they are influenced by what they see on social media like Anita pointed out. Again, there are singles like Eby who totally keep to themselves or work tirelessly just to get by the day. And, of course, there are single lonely ladies who torture themselves by keeping tabs on how their friends are celebrating the day with their loved ones. This inadvertently leads to some kind of depression. It is not impossible that they end up singing to themselves, ‘All by Myself’, one of the famous love songs sampled by the French songstress Celine Dion.