On Tuesday, Rwandans joined the rest of the world to mark Valentine’s Day – a day celebrated by lovers on February 14 every year, marked by dates, dinners and flowers.
Valentine’s Day, named after a Christian saint, is marked in countries around the world through different traditions. In Rwanda, the day is marked through sharing gifts, love messages, flowers and dates for those in love, while for others it is a family moment to celebrate love.
It is a day that divides opinion, with some, especially those of Christian faith, not believing it, let alone celebrating it but for others, not marking it can even mean a break up.
In the central business district, traders cashed in on flowers and quick gifts as lovers scrambled to find the perfect gift for their partners. Flowers, chocolate, wines, bags, clothes and perfumes were among the most sought after gifts even though some traders lamented about the low turn out of buyers.
“I stocked a lot of goods for Valentine’s Day but it is now getting to 4pm and I am not seeing many buyers coming through. Perhaps it’s because it is a working day and many might come in late, so we are waiting patiently,” Sandrine Tuyisenge, a business woman in town, told KT Press.
Some traders blamed the low turn out on inflation and the cost of living which has got many people prioritising, leaving out Valentines Day, which some consider a luxury when it comes to celebrating it.
“Right now my focus is school fees and the welfare of my family. Celebrating Valentines in these hard times for me is a waste of resources. So, I am working as usual and after that I will go home,” said Hassan Mukiza, who works with a bank.
Valentine’s Day is a day whose origins remain shrouded in mystery, with some Rwandans arguing that the day which is associated with the cult of Roman Christian martyr Saint Valentine who lived in the third century, is an imported practice while for some it is a day to show love.
St. Valentine was killed on the orders of Roman Emperor Claudius II, for allegedly performing secret weddings. He is said to have died for love with his head decapitated. According to the legend, Valentine cured his jailer’s blind daughter and the day before his death slipped her a note signed “Your Valentine”.
As such, on Valentine’s Day, lovers share messages of love and promise each other eternity. In Kimihurura and Kacyiru, popular restaurants were teeming with people, mainly couples, looking to spend the evening together and make the most of the day.
For the conservative, the event is commercial and only seeks to deplete finances that could be diverted into more important things. However, for people like Claire Uwituze found at CHIC mall buying gifts, that is an excuse for people who either don’t know how to express their love or are broke and are looking for an excuse.
“Naturally, most people shy away from expressing how much they love another person or they come up with an excuse not to do so but I believe for just one day in a year, we can put an extra effort in showing other people how much we love them,” Uwituze said.