Valentine’s Day, The Festival of Love
Valentine’s Day, The Festival of Love
By Samantha Quee
February is here, and that means Valentine’s Day is arriving soon. With the festival of love just around the corner, stores are flooded with candy hearts, chocolates and stuffed animals.
Here in the United States, shelves brimming with teddy bears, balloons and sweet treats are typical Valentine’s Day fare, but not every country turns to these items to declare love. One nation even holds a special holiday for the loveless to mourn their single lives over black noodles.
Here is a look at how five Asian countries celebrate Valentine’s Day traditions.
Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday for young couples in South Korea, and variations of the holiday are celebrated from February through April. The gift-giving starts on February 14th, when it is up to the women to woo their men with chocolates, candies and flowers. The tables turn on March 14th, a holiday known as White Day, when men not only shower their sweethearts with chocolates and flowers, but up the ante with a special gift.
Those who don’t have much to celebrate on either Valentine’s Day or White Day have a third holiday known as Black Day. On April 14th, it’s customary for singles to mourn their solitary status by eating dark bowls of jajangmyeon, or black bean-paste noodles.
The equivalent to Valentine’s Day in China is Qixi, or the Seventh Night Festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year. According to a Chinese folk story, Zhinu, a heavenly king’s daughter, and Niulang, a poor cowherd, fell in love, married and had twins. When Zhinu’s father learned of their marriage, he sent his queen to bring Zhinu back to the stars. Upon hearing the cries of Niulang and the children, the king allowed Zhinu and Niulang to meet once a year on Qixi.
During Qixi, young women prepare offerings of melon and other fruits to Zhinu in hopes of finding a good husband. Couples head to temples to pray for happiness and prosperity. At night, people look to the heavens to watch as stars Vega and Altair (Zhinu and Niulang, respectively) come close during the star-crossed pair’s annual reunion.
While Valentine’s Day celebrations in the Philippines are similar to celebrations in Western countries, one tradition has swept the country and led to thousands of couples sharing a wedding day on February 14th. Mass wedding ceremonies have gained popularity in the Philippines in recent years, leading hundreds of couples to gather at malls or other public areas around the country to get married or renew their vows en masse.
If flowers are symbols of romance, then Taiwan, famous for its flowers, boasts the most romantic celebration in the world! They celebrate it twice a year: February 14th and also on July 7th. Men are expected to give bouquets of flowers to their beloved. According to Taiwanese tradition, the color and the number of flowers given represent an important message. Red roses represent “an only love,” ninety-nine roses express “love forever,” and 108 roses say, “Will you marry me?”
Valentine’s Day is relatively new to India, as television and radio influenced the culture with love-letter competitions in the 1990s. There continues to be some controversy around the holiday, as Indians still culturally consider love and marriage to be topics that involve the whole family, not just the couple. Public displays of affection are frowned upon in many places. Nevertheless, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular. Restaurants, discos, theaters, and bars are busier than usual as couples celebrate the day together. People may express their love to friends and family, as well as loved ones, and even propose on this romantic day. Gifts exchanged include chocolates, fresh flowers, cards, soft toys and candies.
Love may be a universal language, but the words in which we can express those feelings are not exactly the same. Foreign languages add beautiful variety to the world. Learn how to express love in these different Asian languages.
Tagalog – Mahal kita.
Mandarin Chinese – Wo ai ni.
Korean – Saranghaeyo.
Japanese – Daisuki desu.
Thai – Phom rak khun (to female) / Chan (to male)
Vietnamese – Anh yeu em (to female) / Em yeu anh (to male)
Indonesian – Saya cinta kamu.
Hmong – Kuv hlub koj.
Hindi – Main tumse pyaar karta (to female) / karti hoon (to male)
For the full story, pick up a copy of the February issue for Asian Avenue Magazine! Or see the online version here!