If you were wondering if people celebrate Valentine’s Day in Nigeria, the answer is, oh yes, they most definitely do.
February 14th, the day for lovers, is absolutely crazy in Nigeria, Lagos in particular. Entire streets, hotels, stores, restaurants are covered in red, pink and white streamers, with big heart shaped signs wishing passer bys a Happy Valentines Day. Fancy and fast food restaurants are filled with couples eating out for the holiday. Ibadan, a city which usually gets sleepy around 8:30 p.m., was bustling with cars and people out tonight. I went to Lagos this weekend to relax and get out of Ibadan for a bit and all of my friends there warned me to leave before noon today because the traffic would be horrendous – one of the worst days for traffic the entire year. Many couples spend their nights in the car trying to get to the Island across the Third Mainland Bridge. Boys even walk around in traffic selling heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cakes wrapped in red cellophane for those who are so unlucky.
Valentine’s Day in the U.S. is all about chocolates and roses. Any woman would be satisfied and happy to receive those items from her man. In Nigeria, a woman would just laugh if her partner showed up with a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates. These gifts are not valued as anything special here and the man who makes the mistake will surely suffer the wrath of an angry girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Suitable Vals (people shorten the holiday to Vals here) gifts in Nigeria are the three C’s: cakes, cell phones and cars.
Nigerian’s take cake baking to another level, especially for Vals. Heart shaped molds with perfectly smoothed fondant icing, covered with red and pink piping, maybe even a personalized message on top. Cake baking deserves a post all to itself so I won’t go too much into it now. Vals cakes are a serious matter and a really popular gift for girlfriends and boyfriends to give.
Cell phones, like I’ve mentioned in a previous post, are an extremely important gadget to Nigerians. Everybody wants Blackberrys or Nokias and girls who receive them as Vals gifts will be extremely excited.
Obviously cars are the creme de la creme of Valentine’s Day gifts no matter where you are. Enough said.
Seeing how much fervor went into Nigeria’s Christmas celebration I was just mildly surprised to see the Valentine’s Day frenzy take over Ibadan and Lagos. Valentine’s Day plays no part in Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa culture but the younger Nigerian generation values this holiday named after Saint Valentine, one of the Christian martyrs, with great anticipation and delight. Hopefully I will get to hear girls’ gossop and try some of their Vals cakes tomorrow since Nigeria declared a public holiday to observe Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.