Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Festival of love, not commerce

By Xiao Lixin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-02 08:10

In popular Chinese folktale The Cowherd and the Weaver Maid, two devoted lovers separated by the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens could reunite only on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. In the evening of that special day, or Qixi, magpies would form a bridge across the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way) that separated the lovers to reunite them once a year.

Today, a bouquet of fresh roses, a dinner at a fancy restaurant or an expensive gift is needed to bring lovers closer. No wonder, in the run-up to Qixi Festival (which falls on Aug 2 this year) major shopping malls and restaurants flooded the market with special promotions such as tickets or dinner for couples. It seems that love nowadays can only be measured with money - the more a person spends on his/her partner, the greater will be the depth of his/her love.

It is not uncommon to find good restaurants fully booked, long queues at ticket windows in cinemas and hike in flower and bouquet prices during Qixi Festival. In fact, media reports say that prices of flowers and bouquets are increased by up to 50 percent during Qixi Festival and Valentine's Day every year in major Chinese cities.

Qixi Festival, inspired by the romantic and touching folktale of the ill-fated lovers, was almost forgotten and buried among other more popular traditional festivals, and attracted youths' attention only a few years ago after commercial campaigns associated it with Valentine's Day. In a way, the campaigns revived people's interest in Chinese folktales and traditional festivals, and helped them better understand their importance.

But judging by the prices of goods that are fancied by couples during Qixi Festival, it is not difficult to tell that some unscrupulous businesspeople are hyping up the festival only to stimulate consumption and make more profits. Relationship experts have expressed concern over this phenomenon and said that people should understand that the festival is a special occasion for couples to express their love for each other and, therefore, it should not be reduced to a day for lovers to indulge in extravagance beyond their means.

When a supposedly happy festival is hijacked by profit-hungry businesspeople, it imposes extra financial pressure on people who are targeted by campaigns and promotions but cannot afford to pay for most of the "treats" on offer. It will not only leave such people anxious and frustrated, but also could stop them from getting into a relationship because they might start seeing love as an expensive business.

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