We are helpfully advised here in Sandytown that decadent un-Islamic practices such as Valentine’s Day are to be discouraged, since it corrupts the young and fosters an unhealthy preoccupation with all things Western. Doesn’t make much difference in fact since the stores are stuffed with massive red hearts and teddies the size of Toyotas. Business is business, after all. History is a bit murky, but there is, of course, the story of the unfortunate Valentinus who fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, and another legend based on pagan ritual. Members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, 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 sometimes ended in marriage and some…didn’t. I make no comment about the suitability of such pairings; the reader can read between the lines.
People here are, as it happens, only too glad of the opportunity for a bit of a bash, one way and another – the outrageous euphoria of the locals after Egypt collared the African footie title was spectacular in its excesses. Can’t imagine the lives that would have been lost had they had more access to drink.
I rather suspect that the locals don’t want V-Day to be too high – profile, since Liberation Day is upon us very shortly when everyone gets time off, kids go more than usually berserk and most discerning expats stay well out of the way and watch TV or go to Dubai for the weekend. So, for those for whom St V has a special place, enjoy the logo, at least. And, for Heaven’s sake chaps, forget at your peril.