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Love by another other name: Learn about China’s 5 Separate Valentines’ Day

China’s rapid development over the last 30 years has brought many changes to its society, especially when it comes to romance. With an affluent middle class that continues to grow, Chinese couples are finding more opportunities than ever to express their love on no less than 5 separate Valentine’s Day festivals.

Here they are in chronological order:

Chinese Valentine’s Day #1: Lantern Day

Date in 2020: February 8
Chinese name: 元宵节
Rate of celebration: Low

Although it lives on as the grand finale to Lunar New Years celebrations, Lantern Day once served as the traditional Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It had marked the one day every year when young women were allowed to break free from their chaperones and meet up with their true love.

With the feudal era over, Lantern Day is now celebrated with copious amounts of glutinous rice balls accompanied by the tail end of New Year fireworks.

Chinese Valentine’s Day #2: Valentine’s Day

Date in 2020: February 14
Chinese name: 情人节
Rate of celebration: High

China’s quick adoption of Western holidays is best demonstrated by Valentine’s Day. It has become de rigueur for young Chinese couples to demonstrate their love with gifts of chocolates and roses, the latter of which feature colors like deep indigo with sparkles.

Although many Chinese may be unaware of the involvement of a saint with this festival, the quick adoption of Valentine’s Day has led to new variants of the holiday.

Chinese Valentine’s Day #3: White Day

Date in 2020: March 14
Chinese name: 白色情人节
Rate of celebration: Low

White Day is celebrated in Japan and South Korea by women who send gifts to men who had gifted them a month prior. This “reverse Valentine’s Day” has a lesser influence in China where it pales in comparison to more popular festivals with more consumer spending.

As such, the counterpart to White Day — the appropriately named “Black Day” for women who don’t receive any gifts — is barely recognized in China.

Chinese Valentine’s Day #4: Qixi Festival

Date in 2020: August 24
Chinese name: 七夕节
Rate of celebration: Very high

Qixi is largely considered to be “Chinese Valentine’s Day” by many modern Chinese. Originally, Qixi was known as Girls’ Day, a celebration for unmarried girls. Besides skill competitions, the girls would tell tragic love stories like “The Weaver and the Cowherd,” a story now commonly used as the basis for “Chinese Valentine’s Day.”

To date, Qixi is so popular for Chinese marriages that people will wait in long queues in order to be married on this date.

Chinese Valentine’s Day #5: Singles’ Day

Date in 2020: November 11
Chinese name: 光棍节
Rate of celebration: High

Chosen due to its date that resembles two sticks standing side by side, Single’s Day started off as a joke among young university students pressured by their family to get married. However, with numerology being extremely popular in China, Singles’ Day was repurposed by Chinese couples as the day to cast off one’s singledom instead of celebrating it.

After years of increased consumer spending on this date for romantic gifts, Singles’ Day has become China’s largest retail day of the year. Rebranded as “Double Eleventh,” Singles’ Day is now a day that sees revenue in excess of a billion yuan.

Bonus — Chinese Valentine’s Day #6: Christmas Eve

Date in 2020: December 24
Chinese name: 平安夜
Rate of celebration: Low, but rising

Without bringing up mistletoe, Christmas isn’t a very romantic time of year. And yet, this festival of peace for all mankind has taken on a new meaning in China that gives it romantic overtones. That’s because Christmas has become recognized as a youth festival in China where young people congregate and socialize in open squares — just as they had done before during Lantern festival.


Images: Flickr


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