Valentine’s Day: Infectious rituals of love

Zela Gayle

February 14th marks a global celebration of Valentine’s Day, a time to show your love and appreciation to your loved ones. The origins of Valentine’s Day remain ambiguous, but many sources believe the story of St Valentine, a Roman priest who was martyred on or around February 14 in the year 270 GE.



The ancient ceremony included putting girls’ names in a box and letting the boys draw them out. Couples would then be paired off until the following year.

Eventually the custom of sending anonymous cards or messages to those who one admired has become the accepted way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. There was an increasing interest in Valentine’s Day, first in the United States and then in Canada in the mid-19th century.

Today many Ethiopians have accepted Valentine’s Day as a normal part of their culture. Even with the use of the unique Ethiopian Calendar that doesn’t necessarily fall on the same day as Valentine’s Day for the rest of the world, Ethiopians are celebrating it with equal emphasis to their own unique traditions and festivals.

The excitement of Valentine’s Day has been carried throughout the media which gave special coverage for the day, a practice which was unknown 13 years ago until prominent radio journalist Berhanu Digaffe first introduced the concept of the day through his show to the public.

Berhanu Digaffe

In an interview with this magazine Berhanu Digaffe  says, “If you are a beginner you have to continue promoting it until it gets bigger and better.” He believes promoting Valentine’s Day does not in any way pose a bad effect on Ethiopian culture. He is right.

Berhanu is now preparing an evening show on Monday 11 February during his famous program “College time” on Sheger FM 102.1 that will be discussing love affairs between college students. He has also finalized preparations for special air time on Feb 14th in which he will be giving away special gifts to couples during his Monday-Thursday lunch time jazz program.

Ethiopians in general have a different ways of expressing their romantic feelings (some claim Ethiopian culture dictates that men and women do not share romantic moments outside the bedroom). “We have different ways of celebrating love with our partners and family over holidays like Easter, Ethiopian new year, and Wedding Ceremonies,” Berhanu says, but thanks to his efforts 13 years ago, exchanging flowers, gifts or dining at a restaurant have now become part of the Valentine’s Day ritual for hundreds, if not thousands, of couples.

For restaurants and gift shops Valentine’s Day are now big business. While celebrating love is a wonderful thing, business is increasing for the booming flower industry of Ethiopia too.

Sharing cultures that promote love, respect, and compassion has done less harm as Ethiopia now takes advantage of Valentine’s Day to build on smaller markets that will support, to some extent, the country and its people.


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