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Problems Arise as First Day of Chinese New Year Festival Celebrations Conflict With Valentines Day

Updated on January 19, 2014

Valentine's Day Becoming International

February 14, 2010

About nine years ago after, after much searching, I met Bella, the love of my life, online. Since she was in Russia and I was in the United States our courtship was mostly via email with some weekend telephone calls and some gifts I mailed to her periodically.

For Valentine's Day I sent a package with a Valentine card, some candy for her and a couple of heart shaped chocolates for her two children. I also emailed her a Valentine eCard and explained the holiday to her.

While Valentines Day was not unknown in Russia, it was not a widely observed holiday at that time and she had never heard of it but liked the idea of Valentines Day when she received my explanation.

Chinese Dragon.  A popular Chinese symbol -  2012  will be Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar
Chinese Dragon. A popular Chinese symbol - 2012 will be Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar | Source

Chinese New Year Festival also Becoming International

In a previous Hub entitled Valentine's Day Customs from Around the World I described how in the past decade Valentines Day has become increasingly popular, especially among the young, around the world.

While the holiday originated in Europe and was brought to the United States where it has become a very popular holiday it is now becoming a holiday that is shared internationally.

Thanks mainly to globalization of communications along with the growing number of American expatriates living and working abroad, the holiday is becoming popular world wide. And after all, what is not to like about a holiday that celebrates romantic love?

Of course globalization and the movement of people around the world works both ways which is why the Chinese New Year Festival, like Valentines Day, is becoming increasing popular world wide where it is celebrated by both Chinese living abroad as well as non-Chinese people the world over.

Having to Choose Between Please Mom or Your Girlfriend

The Chinese New Year Festival has many rich and diverse customs and traditions, many of which have universal appeal. And, as I have said in other Hubs about holidays, who doesn't like a good party?

Both the Chinese New Year Festival and Valentines Day are great holidays that everyone can enjoy. However, each have their own customs and traditions which can come into conflict when people are forced to choose.

This year, 2010 or Year of the Tiger, the late starting date of the Chinese New Year Festival caused the first day of the festival fall on February 14th - Valentines Day.

Valentines Day is traditionally a day for lovers to spend time alone together. While the first day of the Chinese New Year Festival is a time for families to come together and celebrate.

For non-Chinese or even many Chinese living abroad, this conflict over how to celebrate when these two holidays fall on the same day can be worked out.

Major Economic and Social Changes are Underway in China

However, according to a front page article in the February 13 - 14, 2010 Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal, having the start of the Chinese New Year Festival and Valentines Day both occurring on the same day is causing problems for many young adults and their families in China.

In the article, In Hong kong, Love's at War With Tradition - Valentine's Day, New Year Clash: Moms' Heartburn, writer Johathan Cheng recounts how in recent years Valentines Day has become very popular among young professionals living in China's urban areas especially in the former British colony of Hong Kong where Valentine's Day has been celebrated for a much longer period than on the mainland.

The introduction of Valentine's Day is but one of the changes that these young Chinese people and their families find themselves having to deal with.

China has been undergoing massive changes as increasing numbers of young people are leaving the rural villages where they grew up and are moving to the large urban areas where the have more opportunities, both economic and social.

Young Women Face Even More Changes

For young women there is an additional change as life in urban areas not only offers them more opportunities and freedom than life in the rural villages where they came from but much greater freedom and control over their lives than their tradition bound rural villages.

In the past, young women in villages would be married off at a young age and move from control of her father's home to that of her husband.

Industrialization and economic growth now offer many young women in rural villages a chance to expand their horizons and choices just as it did for young women in Europe and North America during the Industrial Revolution in those areas.

An additional factor for young women in China is their increased bargaining power in the marriage market. As the result of the killing of hundreds of thousands of girls at birth due to China's misguided family planning laws in past decades, the portion of young women of marriage age relative to that of young men is very small.

Young women can now afford to be more independent and choosy when entering marriage as the surplus of marriageable men ensures that there will be men available whenever the young women decide to marry.

Restaurant in Las Vegas decorated for Chinese New Year
Restaurant in Las Vegas decorated for Chinese New Year | Source
Orange tree with oranges - traditional Chinese New Year Fruit and red Lai See envelopes for gifts of money.
Orange tree with oranges - traditional Chinese New Year Fruit and red Lai See envelopes for gifts of money. | Source
Close Up of Lai See envelope.
Close Up of Lai See envelope. | Source

Actually, Only a Few Youth are Affected by This Dilemma

The tradition of families coming together on the first day of the Chinese New Year Festival takes on added importance now that many Chinese families are separated with the young adults living in distant urban areas while the rest of the family remains in the village.  

Distance and work schedules often mean that the Chinese New Year Festival is the only time families can come together.  

So it is only natural that parents and other family members insist that their older offspring observe tradition and come home.  Also, during times of great change, traditions are sometimes the only constant in people's lives.

Of course these logistical problems cause problems for Valentine's Day as well.  By moving to cities, young people are able to meet other young people besides those they grew up with in their village.  

However, these other young people come from other parts of China which means that dating couples will be split when each goes home for the Chinese New Year Festival.  When both partners families live in the same area compromises are possible such as spending the day with the family and slipping out to meet your partner for a romantic dinner.  

The Wall Street Journal article does point out that this problem of having to choose between staying in the city and celebrating Valentine's Day with the love or your life or answering Mom's call to come home and celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year Festival with your family as tradition demands only affects a tiny percent of the working youth in cities. 

And, from the description of those interviewed for the article, it sounds that those affected are the more affluent young professionals rather than the more traditionally conservative laborers working in the factories.

Confluence of the Two Holidays Poses Problems for Business as Well

Also, conflicts between having to choose between Mom and family or the love of one's life are not the only problems caused by having both the start of the Chinese New Year Festival and Valentine's Day fall on the same day.

The Wall Street Journal article goes on to report that restaurants in big cities are in a quandary having to decide whether to stay open on February 14th and hope that the usual Valentine's Day crowd of young lovers shows up or close on the assumption that most people will spend the day at home with family as is customary on the first day of the Chinese New Year Festival.

In Hong Kong restaurants have the added problem of worrying about their Valentine's Day customers being unable to get to the restaurants because of the congestion and street closings caused by the huge parade that is held on the first day of the Chinese New Year Festival every year.

Flower shops in Hong Kong are also worried about business. However, this is not because of the fact that Valentine's Day and the start of the Chinese New YearFestival start on the same day, but because Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year and people are off from work.

In Hong Kong, as is common in the United States and other places, it has become customary to send one's lady love at her office.

Like the U.S. and elsewhere, women enjoy the attention they get from their co-workers when flowers from the love of their life are delivered to them at work. In the absence of this attention it is feared that the husbands or boyfriends will either dispense with buying flowers altogether or simply pick them up from a flower stall and save the expense of having them delivered.

Venetian in Las Vegas Decked Out for Chinese New Year Festival
Venetian in Las Vegas Decked Out for Chinese New Year Festival | Source
Chinese New Year Greeting at Stratosphere in Las Vegas
Chinese New Year Greeting at Stratosphere in Las Vegas | Source

Holidays Have Become Major Economic Events as Well

From the above it can be seen that, as the United States and other nations where certain holidays, like Valentine's Day, Christmas, Easter, Halloween as they have evolved from religious or family holidays to larger secular holidays their economic impact on the community has grown as well.

These holidays have become major retail events in the U.S. and other nations and the fortunes of many businesses, and jobs, have become dependent upon how well they do on their sales during these holidays. Valentine's Day is affecting the economy of China as well as its social and cultural traditions.

The same is becoming true of the Chinese New Year Festival in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Not only are more non-Chinese residents beginning to join in the Chinese New Year celebrations but look for the economic impact of the Chinese New Year Festival celebrations to assume greater significance on the local, regional and national economy.

Already places like Las Vegas see a major increase in tourism (much of it from Hong Kong and China) during the Chinese New Year Festival.

Valentine's Day and the Start of the Chinese New Year Celebration Won't Be On Same Day Again for 38 Years

While the confluence of the first day of the Chinese New Year Festival and Valentine's Day has caused some problems in China this year, the good news is that having both holidays share the same day is very rare.

The last time the two holidays fell on the same day was 57 years ago in 1953. The next time the two share the same day will be 38 years from now in 2048.

So the Chinese will have thirty-eight years before they have to deal with these issues again.

Hub 4 for 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge

My assistant, Chika, and I trying to write and publish 30 Hubs in 30 Days
My assistant, Chika, and I trying to write and publish 30 Hubs in 30 Days | Source

© 2010 Chuck Nugent


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    • profile image

      DavidLivingston 7 years ago

      Thanks for posting this. It was a nice read.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      defelker - good point. I never thought of the conflict with Lent especially since Ash Wednesday was three days after the start of the Chinese New Year festival. I can see where it would be a real challenge to be fasting and avoiding meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays while everyone else is feasting.

    • dfelker profile image

      dfelker 8 years ago

      Hey, Chuck, I'm a big fan! I've got another conflict for you, even worse than the coincidence of Chinese New Year and Valentines. It's Chinese New Year and LENT. On one hand, feasting and really good food. On the other, fasting and no meat. What's a good Chinese Christian observer to do?

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      buy zovirax 8 years ago from

      Very interesting

    • profile image

      Socialblu 8 years ago

      Very informative hub, Chuck. I stopped celebrating Valentine's day awhile ago, and although I have yet to celebrate Chinesse New Year, I remember it more often than the celebration that I grew up with. For the last couple of years I have repeatedly entered the store and asked why everything is red and pink. Then again the holiday was never explained to me, and I have come to know it as another one of those days when stores try to get you to buy a bunch of things you don't need.

    • C_Pinto profile image

      C_Pinto 8 years ago from USA

      Great writing. Hope you make it to day 30 with the same insight on the topics you dive into.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Chuck, for another very good hub. It's such a pleasure to read. I loved the pic with you and friend.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      shazwellyn - thanks for commenting. The Chinese New Year Festival is not yet a major event outside of China and Chinese enclaves around the world. Neither is Valentine's Day a major holiday in China. However, both are growing in areas outside of their areas of origin.

      As I pointed out in the Hub, the dilemma here only affected a tiny portion of the people in China and these were mainly young, relatively affluent professionals. But these are the people who make news and who many other people follow so a trend is developing.

      In the United States, the Chinese New Year celebrations tend to be limited to the "Chinatowns" of big cities and Chinese restaurants. However, a couple of years ago when I was in Las Vegas just before Chinese New Year the city was starting to get ready for a major celebration and they were expecting tourists both Chinese and non-Chinese from around the world. This indicates that the celebration is catching on outside of its traditional area.

      Thanks again for commenting.

      P.S. I didn't hear Happy New Year or see any traces of a celebration in Northwest Tucson either but I am sure there were some small celebrations going on in other parts of town.

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Yes, there was a lot of dilemma this year. Not once did I hear happy Chinese New Year! I didnt even see anything on the news of the celebrations. Was it me or did it actually happen?

      Thanks for this.. Shaz UK xx

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 8 years ago

      In New England there's the 'Chinese Bus' from Boston to New York, and it's particularly busy for Chinese New Year. It's a private company and caters to Chinese but anyone can take it. The rates are lower than other bus lines, too.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Nan Mynatt - my wife was a Russian citizen and we met through an internet dating site a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union. After we decided to marry I brought her and her two children to the U.S. where I married her. She became a U.S. citizen last month.

      Here is a link to my Hub where I talk about the process of bringing a foreign fiancee to the U.S. using our experience as an example.

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 8 years ago from Illinois

      Chuck, Why was your wife doing in Russia, with her two children? Was she working with the government? Next time let us know about the meeting of you two. I know that China is communist, and the government own everything, or use to. Same as Russia, until they fell down. Right now China is exporting everything they make to the United States. They even got the jobs for the Energy savers from the Stimulus money, that was meant for the Americans, since we don't have any jobs here. Something is wrong with our relationship with them, it is one sided. I really don't celebrate other nations holidays.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 8 years ago from south Florida

      Coincidence, Chuck, that you should write this hub today. I ran into the juxtaposition of both holidays first-hand. Went out with friends to celebrate Valentine's Day - at a Chinese restaurant - and ran headlong into a New Year's parade of dragons inside the restaurant and firecrackers outside. What a nice surprise!

      Thanks for an interesting hub.

    • rmcrayne profile image

      rmcrayne 8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      I have wondered for years about the Chinese murdering and abandoning so many of their girls, who the heck they thought their boys would marry.