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

Updated on February 14, 2022
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Chuck enjoys celebrating holidays with his family. This has led to an interest in researching & writing about holidays & their traditions.

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

Valentine's Day Becoming International

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 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 under the 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 a young women decides 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.

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

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 Year Festival 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 flowers one's lady love to her office which is Sunday when she will not be at the 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 the 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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Chuck Nugent


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