Chinese fall hard for imported holiday of Valentine's Day

Updated: 2008-02-14 19:34

Valentine's China element

"The cold snap in the south has frozen the roses and we suggest lovers exchange celeries and Chinese onions instead," reads a joking text message that spread widely among Chinese mobile subscribers.

More than three weeks of snow and sleet hitting central, southern and eastern China starting in mid-January cut off transport, power and water supplies and stranded millions of people on their way home for the Chinese New Year, which started last Thursday.

Though most regions are warming up these days, the havoc drove up rose prices to three times the normal level.

University students, the most avid group of Valentine celebrators, have called on peers to "buy fewer roses and donate the money to the snow-plagued people instead".

The Chinese have also found alternative gifts to mark Valentine's Day: cell phones, rings, garments and traditional Chinese artwork.

Zheng Xianglin, a folk artist in the eastern Fujian Province, didn't expect his handmade peony-shaped lanterns could sell so well among the young.

"I make 20 pieces a day at the most -- every day they're sold out within an hour," he said. "Most buyers are young couples."

The debate over whether Western holidays should be allowed to become so prominent in China is continuing. So is folk culture activists' call for establishment of China's own "lover's day", to be celebrated in summer.

Yet many agree China is no more the isolated Middle Kingdom it once was.

"Even the Chinese New Year is becoming a universal festival, with the Empire State Building in New York lighting its tower red and yellow Thursday evening to ring in Lunar New Year and half a million Britons gathering in central London to celebrate the same occasion," reads an opinion published on Thursday's China Youth Daily.

"We don't have to care where the holiday originates, as long as it brings us happiness," it said. China "needs to be an open-minded nation to embrace the world in a mature and confident manner" with its people being "global citizens of an open society."


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