Western Valentine’s Day Traditions
Last Sunday was Valentine’s Day on February 14. It was also the third day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. As it was also our wedding anniversary, my husband and I had a triple reason to celebrate the day.
I received flowers—a lovely bouquet of deep warm orange tulips—and my husband his favorite heart-shaped European chocolates, as per Western traditions.
Tulips are associated with lasting and enduring love in traditional Western culture. Orange tulips symbolize deep appreciation and understanding between two people in a relationship.
A bouquet of orange tulips signifies unconditional positive regard and spiritual connectedness between two people. Hence, tulips are ideal to give to your spouse, children, parents, siblings, or close friends.
To celebrate the day, we visited a Chinese restaurant that we had not been to before. The name of the place, Tao’s Restaurant, sparked off conversations about the way of the Tao and traditional Chinese culture.
Being a Westerner, my husband mused about whether ancient Chinese people celebrated Valentine’s Day or the equivalent in traditional Chinese culture.
So, Do Chinese Celebrate Valentine’s Day?
The answer is yes. Chinese and Asian people of Chinese ancestry celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th and also on several other occasions throughout the year.
If you consider yourself lucky to celebrate one Valentine’s Day on February 14, wait till you find out the many Valentine’s Day traditions the Chinese observe.
Chinese people traditionally celebrate six Chinese Valentine’s Days a year. This includes festivals from ancient times up to the present, giving them plenty of occasions to declare their love and devotion for their beloved.
The Six Chinese Valentine’s Day Traditions
Here’s the list for Chinese Valentine’s Days that you may like to choose from to celebrate Valentine’s Day traditions besides February 14. There are:
- Lantern or Yuanxiao Festival: (15th day of the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 26, 2021)
- Shangsi Festival: (3rd day of the third lunar month on April 14, 2021)
- White Valentine’s Day: (every year on March 14)
- Wǔ-èr ling: (meaning five-two-zero, which is May 20, yearly)
- Qixi Festival: (7th of seventh lunar month that will be on August 14, 2021)
- Single’s Day: (every year on November 11)
Three of the Chinese Valentine’s Days originate from traditional Chinese culture. These are the Lantern or Yuanxiao Festival that falls on the 15th day of the lunar New Year each year, the Shangsi Festival, celebrated on the 3rd day of third lunar month, and the Qixi Festival on 7th day of seventh lunar month each year.
In traditional Chinese societies, people paid particular attention to various customs and practices, especially those about relationships between two people. There were specific occasions throughout the year for young people to celebrate and declare their love for each other.
Today, many Chinese and people of Chinese descent throughout the world still observe these traditional festivities.
If you have a Chinese or Asian spouse, or dating one, find out more about these ancient Chinese Valentine’s Days traditions. Take every opportunity to show your devotion. Surprise your beloved with what you know and observe some of these ancient Chinese traditions.
Why Do Chinese Have So Many Valentine’s Days?
Stories from my 19th century China-born grandmother helped to provide me with some insights.
In traditional Chinese societies, single men and women, especially those from rich and upper class families, followed strict social propriety and moral conduct. Unmarried men and women were not allowed to date or even interact with each other in any private settings. Hence, young people did not have many opportunities to meet the opposite sex.
To maintain virtue and chastity, young girls were not permitted to meet and socialize with men. It was customary practice for the parents or grandparents to arrange their marriages, often with the help of a matchmaker. Even my parents’ marriage was arranged in this traditional way.
Hence, in traditional Chinese societies, young people did not have the opportunity to meet their loved ones or betrothed. It was during these festivals that they had a fleeting chance to meet each other.
Culture and traditions survive and continue to be passed down. Today, many Chinese still observe these ancient festivals, perhaps without the same significance and excitement as for the ancient Chinese.
In a follow-up article, we shall take a closer at the legends surrounding traditional Chinese Valentine’s Days.