IF your partner is a Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican or Lutheran Church member, you may as well forget about Valentine’s Day this year.
February 14 is a day synonymous with loved ones showing appreciation for each other by exchanging all manner of gifts.
Partners spend big on flowers, chocolates, cakes, gift cards, lingerie and candle-lit dinner dates, among other things.
Flower retailers and gift shops are already busy wrapping an assortment of love merchandise (hampers), as they are set to cash in on St Valentine’s Day.
Those who believe in the day are already in the mood and full of expectations.
However, there is something unique about this year’s edition of the celebrations, which has probably left some Christian couples confused.
While men usually spoil their loved ones one way or the other on Valentine’s Day, 2024 is a leap year and tables have to turn, with the ladies expected to be at the forefront in spoiling their partners.
But it gets more interesting now.
The rare occasion for men — which only comes after four years — has seemingly been “diluted”, particularly for Christian partners that belong to certain denominations, as February 14 will also be Ash Wednesday.
This (Ash Wednesday) is a significant day for many believers as it marks the start of Lent, a period leading up to Easter, when Jesus is believed to have resurrected. The ashes are said to symbolise both death and repentance.
Accordingly, Christians repent and mourn over their sins, because they believe Christ died for them.
On Ash Wednesday, fasting rules allow Catholics to have only one full meal and two smaller ones. Additionally, Catholics may not eat meat on this day or on any other Friday during Lent.
Catholic senior priest Father Paul Mayeresa said on Ash Wednesday, believers get the marking of the cross in ash and are expected to fast.
“When we talk about fasting, we are not confined to food, but everything that one feels one is too accustomed to or that which one loves dearly, including meat,” said Fr Mayeresa.
“Fasting was formerly observed on all days during Lent (Sundays excluded), but is now confined to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, so we value that day a lot.”
The man of the cloth said while couples may abstain from sexual activities, it, by and large, depends on their consensual agreement.
Other couples, Fr Mayeresa notes, may also agree to abstain from intimacy throughout Lent.
“This period is also a time when believers pray and fast for certain things in their lives, for the poor and even give to charity,” weighed in United Methodist priest Rodrick Nkabi.
Couples, he added, should not only show affection for each other on Valentine’s Day.
“It is sad that men waited for four years to enjoy such pleasures associated with love, only for the day to be ‘written off’ by Ash Wednesday limitations,” he said.
“For us, Valentine’s is like any other day because we always spoil each other with gifts and special treats. I believe when couples are in love, they do not wait for a particular day to express their affection towards each other.
“If couples wait for Valentine’s Day or birthdays to spoil each other, then it means something is wrong with the relationship. We are not saying the gifts must be expensive but the thought and reassurance are what matter most,” said Dr Chisamba.
She also challenged the notion that men should always spoil the women, arguing love should be expressed both ways.
Cynthia Nhemachena, an Anglican, said Ash Wednesday will not disturb her Valentine’s Day plans.
She intends to attend Ash Wednesday mass before taking her husband Mark for dinner.
However, taking into consideration the Ash Wednesday demands, Nhemachena said they will stick to vegetarian meals.
Uganda Martyrs Catholic Church Mufakose parishioner Dominic Satumba said Valentine’s is a day to express love to those dear to him in a special way.
This being a leap year, Satumba is expecting to be spoiled by his wife Rambayi.
However, with the day coinciding with Ash Wednesday, he said, they will spare time to introspect on their marital journey. The couple will also mark the beginning of their 40-day fasting, prayer and almsgiving period.
“It is significant that we use Valentine’s/Ash Wednesday as a time to mend broken relationships and reflect on the love that Jesus shows us as we begin this journey with him for 40 days,” he said.
“It is a journey he began as he walked towards the climax of faith, dying on the cross and resurrecting on the third day, so it is an important day in Christianity.”
The Satumbas will fast on Wednesday, before attending mass at their parish later in the day, where they will go through some rites. Thereafter, the couple will start their Valentine’s celebrations.
“We will be fasting the whole day, according to Ash Wednesday obligations, so our Valentine’s celebrations will be largely centred on giving each other gifts,” revealed Satumba.
“Catholic laws, however, encourage us to fast that which we crave the most, which means if it is intimacy that we desire most and ichikutadzisa kunamata (affects prayer), then fast it on Ash Wednesday.”
Old Luveve Lutheran Church couple Leeroy and Noleen Ndlovu acknowledge that the common expectation is that men should bear the responsibility of buying gifts on Valentine’s Day.
However, they argued that men, just like their female counterparts, also crave the experience of being spoiled and cared for. Despite Valentine’s Day coinciding with Ash Wednesday this year, Noleen said she will go on and spoil her husband.
“These men also cherish the good moments of being pampered and receiving thoughtful gifts, so this year, we should consider getting gifts that allow us to recognise Ash Wednesday, as well as make our husbands happy.
“Simple gifts like clothing stuff, personalised cups, vehicle accessories and flowers, among other meaningful presents that reflect one’s level of affection, will be the way to go,” she reckons.
Do not spoil the occasion
In Glen View, Sharon Sengweni notes that leap year comes once every four years, providing women with enough time to save and plan for special occasions or purchase meaningful gifts.
For others, Valentines is a time for flowers and gifts
She said women need to take advantage of this “long” period to plan Valentine’s celebrations that do not infringe on occasions like Ash Wednesdays or the Lent. Sengweni feels most women will take advantage of Ash Wednesday not to spoil their spouses.
“It is only once in four years that women are expected to give men gifts and we cannot be making excuses,” she said.
“The four years between leap years allow for careful preparation and thoughtful gestures as we celebrate significant events in our relationships.”
Retailer Michael Moyo will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with his wife Nancy in Kariba.
Despite it being a leap year, Moyo has for the past two months saved up for the occasion.
“I want to surprise her. I booked for a weekend getaway, where we will have a sunset boat cruise and romantic dinner.
“As a couple, we often do not wait for Valentine’s Day to celebrate our love, although we recognise the day, so I felt I simply needed to remind her that I love her.”
Fashion enthusiast Cynthia Bizure has pledged to “donate” Valentine’s presents to at least 10 individuals who cannot afford to spoil their loved ones.
“Munhu asina present for Valentine’s zvemachokwadi (anyone without a Valentine’s present for real), we are happy to have a present prepared for you to gift your loved one. The Jan Jam team and I will wrap the present and deliver it to your special person for free. I am excited to be doing this,” her post reads.
However, some couples and religious denominations do not believe in Valentine’s Day celebrations.
“We know there is Valentine’s Day but we do not subscribe to that because, while some use it to show affection for each other, it also promotes prostitution and other unholy stuff. The origins of the day are another reason we do not celebrate the occasion,” said Madzibaba Persuage Muradzi of the Highglen Apostolic sect.