Society

Hugs and fishes

How the Chinese celebrate Valentine’s Day

"I glug you": Kissing fish are popular Valentine's Day gift in Shanghai

The Chinese are such fans of Valentine’s Day that they celebrate it not once, but twice every year.

Qi Xi, the Chinese version of the amorous day falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, and has been celebrated by couples since the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220).

However, much to the dismay of most of China’s male population, the western Valentine’s Day (celebrated on February 14th) has also become an increasingly popular date in the ‘love’ calendar for young Chinese couples.

In Beijing, 2,689 enthusiastic couples tied the knot on Valentine’s Day, a rise of nearly 2,000 marriages over the same day last year. According to Xinhua, it was the most popular day to get married since August 8th, the day the Beijing Olympics opened.

Quick to capitalise on the new Valentine’s Day craze, shopping malls across the country set up special counters for Valentine’s Day gifts like jewellery, flowers, teddy bears, and chocolates. Somewhat more uniquely, kissing fish enjoyed widespread media coverage (see photo).

To heighten the retail experience Beijing’s Grand Pacific department store decorated its entrance with a wedding theme for the Valentine’s Day promotion, with love songs playing from each corner. To help the more clueless men in Beijing, Google China also launched a special map with information on recommended gifts, restaurants, flower delivery, hotels and scenic spots around the capital city.

Restaurants and hotels around the country lured couples with Valentine’s Day specials. In light of the financial crisis, many had lowered prices. But while no one could put a price on love, many were spending less. Fast food joints and casual eatouts were particularly busy on the night of Valentine’s Day. KFC even conjured up special lovers’ combos – one called ‘Heartbeat’, the other called ‘Sweetness’ – to accommodate the budget-conscious lovebirds. A classy date, indeed.

But where love is unrequited, there is often suspicion and insecurity. And it wasn’t just the restaurants and shopping malls that were busy over the Valentine’s Day weekend. Private detectives were busier than usual too, says Shenzhen Special Zone Daily. One private detective in Shenzhen had a client who wanted her husband tracked to see if she could catch him with a mistress. Another woman asked detectives to follow her daughter, as she suspected her offspring of forbidden rendezvous with a secret lover.


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