In our world, there are two kinds of people, “single people” and “married people”. As I belong to the first group, mid-February is not my favorite part of the year. I am not among those who celebrate Valentine’s Day with crimson roses, chocolate hearts, and cuddly stuffed animals in fancy dim-lit restaurants.
Every year before Valentine’s Day, my non-single friends complain to me about how confused they are about this day. On the other hand, my single friends ask me ironically about my plans for that day, to open a long discussion about our singlehood; we usually end up making fun of ourselves and of our inconvenient suitors.
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Twenty Three and Counting
I am 23 years old. This means that I have witnessed ten Valentine’s Days ever since I became a teenager. My opinion about Valentine’s Day has gone through a series of changes until it reached what it is now.
Let me share with you this evolution of thoughts that has much to do with the Egyptian culture.
Phase 1: Love everyone that day. When my school mates and I first heard about something called “Valentine”, we asked our teachers about it. All of them told us that Valentine’s Day is for celebrating love, which one should celebrate with friends, family, neighbors and everyone they love.
Therefore, my school mates and I decided to celebrate it by buying gifts for each other. I can still remember the man in the gifts shop when he asked me “what do you want for him?” I answered angrily, “it’s her; I’m buying the gifts for my girl pals”. This situation made me decide to buy 100% feminine gifts, like accessories and headscarves instead of teddy bears, to avoid any misunderstanding.
I reached a conclusion that Valentine's Day turns to be nothing but a day of corporate greed. And this makes love a cheap thing, and sometimes it makes it even vulgar.
But after our first celebration, my mother prevented me from doing it again, saying that “we should not celebrate Valentine’s Day”.
I tried but failed to convince mother that I had to celebrate this day with my friends because everybody around me do so. I argued that how come my friends buy gifts for me and I don’t buy them gifts?.
I tried hardly to convince her that it is our way to express concern for each other, as school friends, but she was very strict and insisted on her opinion.
Phase2: Hate everyone that day. Few years later, I realized how naïve my opinion was. I practically learned the Valentine’s Day rule: “If you are in a relationship, you can celebrate it, otherwise, shut up and watch people enjoying it everywhere around you.”
I started to hate that day and hate every one celebrating it. I wished I could tuck my head under my pillow to escape the 24 long boring hours of that day.
|A street vendor in Egypt selling red balloons for Valentine's Day.|
Phase3: Pamper yourself that day. “You can be single and have fun that day”, my single friends and I told each other. And like millions of singletons around the globe, we decided to have fun that day by doing simple things, e.g. buying ourselves gifts, eating our favorite food, watching our favorite movies, going out, etc.
I have never done the first suggestion, for the same old reason, to avoid misunderstanding that I am buying this gift for my fiancé or husband. I also have never done the last one, not only because couples are everywhere, but simply because all restaurants, cafés and cinemas are mostly booked and very crowded that day.
Phase4: It’s stupid to celebrate that day. I have to say that I did not reach this phase on my own; I read a number of columns and watched a number of interviews to reach this conclusion: The problem is not in celebrating love; but in the way this celebration takes place. All streets turn red, a big sector of people- regardless of their social or income standards- use to visit toyshops, candy shops, florists, restaurateurs, hairdressers every year to prepare themselves for this lucrative event. The issue that keeps raising prices to take advantage of the romantic customers.
|But I will celebrate love, without doing anything immoral. This is because under my veil, and the veil of every single Muslim woman, there is a beating heart.|
Valentine’s Day turns to be nothing but a day of corporate greed. And this makes love a cheap thing- and sometimes it makes it even vulgar.
This corporate greed takes place in Egypt, where 40% of its people lie under the poverty line, unemployment among college graduates is 25%. Divorce rates in the past 50 years jumped from 7% to 40%, 42% of which take place in the first year of marriage. Most of the divorced women are still in their 20’s. Moreover, there are 9 million spinsters in Egypt.
Isn’t it stupid to celebrate Valentine’s Day in my country?
I believe yes.
Phase5: It is Haram to celebrate that day. I then paid attention to the fatwas about celebrating Valentine’s Day. In Egypt, on a yearly basis, a number of sheikhs come up in television Islamic programs giving fatwas that celebrating Valentine’s Day is un-Islamic.
People share these fatwas by email, or in social media channels like Facebook in the form of warning people of celebrating this occasion. Egyptian sheikh Hazem Shuman went as far as saying that Valentine’s Day is “more dangerous than HIV/AIDS, Ebola and Cholera”!
Sheikhs issue such fatwas saying that Valentine’s Day is “alien to our culture”.
|I will make every day in my marital life a celebration of love and good feelings towards my husband and my family.|
Phase6: I don’t care about that day. I am no more a teenager to pay much attention to this occasion; in the past few years I remembered Valentine’s Day after it was over.
Valentine now becomes a normal day to me like any other day in the calendar. It no more teases me because it is over-romantic or because many practices turn it to be “un-Islamic”as I view.
Will I celebrate a day of love when I become a “non-single”? May be I will choose another day for the celebration to be unique to both of me and my husband. Or maybe I will celebrate it in a different way without a red gift in a restaurant like the mainstream couples.
What I am sure about is that I will make every day in my marital life a celebration of love and good feelings towards my husband and my family.
But I will celebrate love, without doing anything immoral. This is because under my veil, and the veil of every single Muslim woman, there is a beating heart.
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