Valentine’s Day, The Kenyan Way!!

Bouquet of Flowers at Nairobi

It’s the 14th day of February, famously known as the Valentine’s day. Happy Valentines to you all, lovers of this day. Many a times, I really force myself into keeping quiet or rather reserving my comments to myself. But, this I couldn’t let it go, I have to comment!! Others actually want Valentine’s day declared a Public Holiday, now this got juicer. Nairobi City is painted RED!! Name it all, on the shopping malls, within the city, on the matatus and on the airwaves.

The truth is, my life now is divided into: my life before and my life after being abroad. It is definitely that I will keep comparing my life in Kenya and my stay in Norway for a while. Last year a time like this, I missed this Kenyan fascination on Valentine’s Day.

Flower vendors strategically in Nairobi city

I remember I took a walk around Kristiansand city, looking for any traces of Valentine’s day in vain. When I finally asked my former colleagues at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK about it, they actually looked puzzled. “What about Valentine’s day?” Many wouldn’t consider it a day worth a mention. Two of my former colleagues from NRK land in Kenya today and I cannot wait to see their reaction, they are here at the right time. “Why should we dedicate one day to celebrate love? It sounds very superficial. You can buy flowers anytime of the year; it doesn’t have to be on the 14th February.” Remarked a friend.

Culture Clash

Men ordering for Flowers in Nairobi

When I finally blogged about my culture clash concerning the Valentine ’s celebration, many were shocked. It is at this point that I should actually mention that in Kenya, Valentine day makes the lead story in a news bulletin. This is definitely something I found totally incredible. However and whatever angle I look at it, I still couldn’t comprehend how. I will understand, it will make news, but not the lead story.

The media is definitely the agenda  setter as far as this celebration is concerned. The whole of last week and until day, more and more love songs have hit the airwaves than ever before. Love messages and dedications have become the main topic, nothing short of that. In towns, many were in a last-minute rash buying roses, teddy bears, lingerie’s, wine and chocolates for their loved ones.

Shop displays in Nairobi

On Sunday, I stepped into Mavuno Church and I loved what I saw. The podium decorated in big red hearts, (How I wish I had brought my camera with me). The topic was definitely a love topic, with this month’s series being,  “Find us, Keep us”. Pastor M, was on point as he led us through checklist as far as life commitment and marriage partners are concerned.

We Love Valentine’s Day

Yes, for those who did not know, this is Kenya. In Nairobi, we love and adore Valentine’s day, for reasons best known to us. One, it is a Western phenomenon and therefore, we rate it highly and ape the many things we hear about it. Two, many of us do not know the origin of Valentine’s day, but, because the media makes so much fuss about it, we believe it is extremely our right to be treated on the Valentines. It always been reported that many relationships go sour after Valentine’s day, due to many unmet expectations.

Red teddy bears at a Nairobi Supermarket

Three, we lack creativity in expressing our love to our loved ones; therefore, we take advantage of the ready-made ideas and capitalize on them. Year in, year out, we seem to have the same story lines, chocolates, cards, rose flowers, either hand delivered or office surprises. Of course, it is a great business opportunity for hoteliers and flower businesses.

As I took a walk at the City Center last night, I made friends with a few flower vendors who had strategically positioned themselves all over the city. I asked, “Mmm, how is the going? Great business opportunity, right?” “Not really, many have only come to make orders that need to be delivered to the offices as surprise deliveries, so we expect to make most sales tomorrow(today).” Said, Alex, who together with his four colleagues, had a central stand along Kimathi Street.

Nairobians sample Valentine gifts

Some Little Creativity

At the Supermarkets, the madness was the same. I toured Nakumatt, Tuskys and  Ukwala Supermakets in town and clearly, red teddy bears, red lingerie’s, wines and chocolates were timely displayed. I must admit, I am a bit hard to please, but…..but…..but, the truth is, I will value a more creative idea than money spent in any of those items displayed at the supermarkets. We will end up  with uniform gifts after Valentine’s day. Why wouldn’t Kenyans get out of their way and do something extra ordinary, after all we love Valentines so so so so much.

How about making your loved ones, a surprise meal, one that you have been practicing for a while and today is the day to prove that you can actually cook? How about designing a card instead of buying the one from the supermarket? How about organizing an off day for your loved one, so that you can plan to spend the day indoors? Or taking a long drive outside the city, just talking to one another?

Valentine displays at Ukwala Supermarket

How about sitting down together and reminiscing about the old memories, a moment to rekindle your love? How about just sitting down and planning about your future, building castles, an expression that your future has your mate in picture, not just a one day celebration!

My point is, if you really, really have to celebrate Valentine’s day, of course it is your choice, go out your way and add some creativity. Stay out of the same old ideas, dinner at this or that restaurant, radio dedications, surprised office delivery, you did the same last time, what makes you think she is not expecting you to do the same?

For those who do not care a second about Valentine ’s Day, no pressure, it is just a 24 hour day, so stay calm!!

Flowers ready for delivery!

To my Norwegian friends in Kristiansand, receive my sincere condolences following the tragic loss of one of your students early this week, through a road accident in Kenya! Be consoled!

 “Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction.”


10 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day, The Kenyan Way!!

  1. Hey Patience Nyange,
    Thanks for your thoughts, Valentine’s Day may be the most romantic date on the calendar, but Valentine’s night owns the title of the sexiest night of the year. Whether it’s lingerie, sex toys or the willingness to try something kinky, Valentine’s is the night to check it out.
    I’ll be back to read more next time

  2. Dear Patience,

    Your blog posts are really touchy and educative. I didn’t know such a colorful and modern Kenya. I admire you as a journalist with rich experience, warm heart and keen observation. Currently I am working as an exchanged reporter in Thailand. I wish one day I will be a real reporter in my country, China, and record every piece of changes my country is undergoing now.

    Keep on and love you!


  3. I had no idea Valentine’s Day was even celebrated in Kenya. You’ve taught me something new today!

  4. Planning on arriving back into my fiancees arms this Valentines day – and wanted to know the customs. It’s nice to see that he’ll be pleasantly surprised & the day actually “means something” there 😀 I do hope he’s not expecting red lingerie tho – so far he doesn’t even know when i’m arriving. Hopefully – after 7 months apart – it’ll be a sufficient surprise 😀 (although it appears i should purchase a red teddy (bear) – since they’re derigeur from what I see in the pix) Thanks for the post ! ~Ska

    1. Welcome to Kenya. Yes, we Kenyans mind valentines a great deal. It all about “showing up” if you understand this concept. All the best in your planning. Happy Valentines.

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