Valentine’s Day around the region

by Matthew Escosia
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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and we are once again reminded that love makes the world go round. Interestingly enough, even though Valentine’s Day came from the western tradition to honor Saint Valentine’s feast day, over the years it has become a phenomenon where people all over the world celebrate romantic love.

In recent times, Valentine’s Day has been synonymous with couples either planning for their romantic getaways or for that Valentine’s surprise that will surely put a smile on their beloved’s face. Each of us has our own way of celebrating the “day of love” depending on our personality, relationships status, and even our budget. Taking into account differences in cultural traditions, different countries have also put their own unique twist to the most romantic day of the year.

In this article, we share with you the different ways Valentine’s Day is celebrated around Southeast Asia.

Philippines

The Philippines is known for its quirky traditions during festivals and holidays. One such example is their Christmas season, which is considered one of the longest yuletide celebrations in the world, starting as early as September and ending as late as February. Valentine’s Day is not an exception – shops and business establishments are decorated with heart cut-outs, red and pink balloons and roses, and anything that can be considered romantic. Promotions such as couple discounts are also common during this season. But a tradition that stands out among these are the mass wedding ceremonies held during February 14th. Local governments sponsor these free mass weddings to provide couples certificates of marriage without the exorbitant cost of a wedding ceremony. They are also treated to a wedding reception afterwards and are recognized with tongue-in-cheek awards like the Early Bird Couple, Best Wedding Gown and even the Oldest Bride and Groom.

 

Singapore

Valentine’s Day in Singapore also takes a more westernized approach where shopping malls, restaurants and cafes have special promos for couples, and young teens flock parks and public spaces with matching shirts and flowers in hand. Music festivals are also a tradition in Singapore during the season, along with fashion shows and performances in fancy hotels and pubs. One interesting tradition that Singapore has during the 15th of February is Chap Goh Meh, where unmarried women throw mandarin oranges into a nearby river, believing that this will help them meet their life partners.

 

Myanmar

In Myanmar, people express their love by giving gifts, much like a second Christmas. Flowers and stuffed toys sell out fast every Valentine’s Day, and things like homemade cards and couples shirts are always in fashion. According to Xinhua.net, shirts with romantic lines like “I Love You” and “Me too” are among the most popular with young couples. Red roses are another timeless gift which carries a lot of significance. Myanmar also celebrates White Day on March 14th, where boys or men who received gifts the past Valentine’s day will reciprocate the gesture by giving back to their valentine with white gifts such as cookies, white chocolate, jewelry, marshmallows or lingerie.

 

Indonesia

Being predominantly a Muslim country, Indonesians are against the celebration of Valentine’s Day. According to the Indonesian government, Valentine’s festivities promote promiscuity and don’t coincide with Muslim teachings and values. Most cities in Indonesia impose a strict full or partial ban on Valentine’s activities, and in some cases, couples who try to celebrate the holiday are temporarily detained. Although most of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day with excitement and joy, and would view a ban on the holiday as too harsh, there are a lot of Indonesians who support the government’s actions and believe that Valentine’s Day is a symbol of western decadence that they can do without.

 

Vietnam

Lễ Tình Nhân or Feast of Love is Vietnam’s version of Valentine’s Day. According to anecdotes from Vietnamese people, unlike other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam started celebrating the day of love fairly recently. It might be because of this that gender doesn’t play much of a role in initiating the celebration; whether its young women inviting their crushes or significant others out to dates or older men giving flowers to their wives, Valentine’s knows no gender division in Vietnam. Since the celebration is relatively new, it is more accepted by younger couples, with movie dates and gift giving being among the most popular activities during the holiday. However, they still follow Vietnamese traditions and superstitions such as avoiding giving shoes or slippers as a gift to their partners, as this would mean that the partner would run away or leave the relationship. The same can be said for handkerchiefs as Valentine’s gifts, as local superstition says that they symbolize sorrow and tears.

 

However differently Valentine’s Day is observed in Southeast Asia, there’s no denying that this holiday has undoubtedly become one of the most celebrated around the world. How does your country celebrate Valentine’s Day? Share it with us in the comment section below!

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