Monday, February 25, 2019

36. Valentine's Day -- It Comes Twice this Year

Did everyone have a sweet and romantic Valentine's Day? Lots of roses and chocolates, not mention perhaps a lovely candle lit dinner?

Actually, for those of who follow western and Chinese traditions, we have two Valentine's Days this February 2019. In addition to St. Valentine's Day on February 14th, there is the Lantern Festival on February 19th. Also known as Chinese Valentine's Day, this is celebrated on the first full moon of the lunar calendar after the Chinese new year.

The Lantern Festival is different from the Moon Festival (aka Mid Autumn Festival) in that the lanterns are not for children. Traditionally, adults hang up lanterns at a fair and they write riddles or conundrums on them. Then they see if anyone can figure out the answer in order to win a prize.

This does not necessarily sound romantic, so how is this related to the western version of Valentine's Day? Way back in the early days, Chinese women couldn't go out on the street as easily as men; especially single or unwed women. But attending a festival, such as the Lantern Festival, was a safe way to be out of doors.

Women could hang out with friends and guardians, observing the beautiful lanterns as well as testing their knowledge and wisdom by attempting to solve the conundrums printed on the lanterns. And romance was always a possibility if by chance a young and talented single man happened by. And there were those who might arrange to connect with a secret lover under the lanterns.

Many poems and novels capture stories of love that happened under the Lantern Festival's full moon over the course of a thousand years. That's how the celebration also came to be known as Chinese Valentine's Day.

In the west's celebration of Valentine's Day, those enraptured by love remember how St. Valentine sacrificed himself for all who fall in love. And, of course, hearts and Cupid and his arrow symbolize the celebration of true love.

What images symbolize the Chinese version of Valentine's Day?

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