Not free today to celebrate the western Valentine’s Day with your partner? Don’t worry, we got you covered. Mark your calendars and send an invitation to your significant other on one, or all, of the following dates and valentine it the Asian way!
1. Lantern Festival
If you have been living in China for long enough, it will come as no surprise when you see beautiful lanterns hung up everywhere on the fifteenth day of the first month on a Chinese calendar.
The Chinese calendar predicts a full moon – a symbol of reunion– on the fifteenth day of every Chinese New Year. To celebrate seeing the first full moon of the year, there used to be big celebrations on the streets of the old emperor. Back in the conservative days, women were not allowed to leave their houses very often. The huge celebration of the Lantern Festival was one of the few occasions where women can go out in the evening and find love under the jolly atmosphere. It was also the day for lovers and couples to meet.
Nowadays, a lot of Asian countries often celebrate lantern festival through filling parks and streets with colourful and festive lanterns with traditional riddles written on them. You will also see performances of dragon dance, lion dance and stilt-walking on that day.
In the dictionaries of a lot of Chinese people, or Asians, the word “valentine” means more than just the other-half, but family too. Therefore, this is also a day for extended families to meet and gather. “I like having rice dumplings on that day at family gatherings because the round and circular shape represents reunion and completion,” said Pat Leung, 50, a Hong Kongese mom.
2. Qixi Festival
Qixi Festival is known to many westerners as the Chinese Valentine’s Day and there is a very romantic tale behind this day.
Once upon a time, the goddess of weaving, Zhi Nu, met and fell in love with an oxherd, Niu Lang, when she came to the mortal world. Niu Lang felt the same, so the two got married and had two kids. They lived a happy life together until Zhi Nu’s mother found out about the marriage. The queen, mother of heaven, got very angry and took Zhi Nu back to heaven. Niu Lang was devastated but a cow of Niu Lang came to rescue. It told Niu Lang it was an injured god and his leather can become shoes that can fly him to heaven.
After the death of the cow god, Niu Lang tried to fly to Zhi Nu with the cow’s leather. Unfortunately, the leather of the injured god couldn’t beat the power of the mother of heaven. The queen created a river of stars to separate the two, which is later known as the Milky Way.
Niu Lang and Zhi Nu’s cried for each other and their sorrow moved the magpies. The birds then formed a bridge for the two to walk across the Milky Way to meet each other. At the end, the queen gave in and allowed the lovebirds to meet on the seventh night of the seventh month each year. That became the only night when Niu Lang and Zhi Nu can reunite.
The seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar has since become the day of Qixi Festival. Zhu Nu and Niu Lang have also since become metaphors for true love. Some also call the day the Double Seventh Festival.
The Chinese Valentine’s Day is celebrated in some parts of Asia, like in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, through floating a river lantern or flying a sky lantern. “Some government organization will arrange firework show(s) to celebrate Qixi Festival,” said Melody Su, a Taiwanese college student. However, unlike the Lantern Festival, Qixi Festival is usually celebrated only amongst couples.
3. White Valentine’s Day
More and more people are hearing about the White Valentine’s Day, but do you know where it originated from?
In Japan, the western valentine’s day is for women to confess to men they admire, and the white valentine’s day is designated for a man to return his love, or not, depends on how he feels about the women. If a man also likes the women, he would return the love by buying her expensive chocolates or other gifts. But if he is not as keen, there is also something called the “friendship chocolates.”
On white valentine’s day, female may also buy male seniors “obligation chocolates” which carries no romantic meanings but is a gesture that expresses gratitude.
Now, this day has been interpreted differently in other corners of Asia. Here in Hong Kong, couples also celebrate white valentine’s day but in a slightly more commercialized way. “I do celebrate white valentine’s day with my girlfriend. We would go out for a nice meal and give each other gifts to make each other happy,” said Angus Tam, 21, a college student from Hong Kong.
That’s it, now you have three more occasions to show your loved ones some love and three more reasons to ask for more presents! The Shroffed team wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Reporter: Kinnie Li
Copy editor: Ivy Li
Content Manager: Wilson Wong