Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day: Global, Local, Forbidden

Valentines a global holiday? Really? I knew it was celebrated in France. In Hong Kong I’ve shared a special Valentines dinner with friends and seen couples strolling through the shopping malls, arms linked. Each woman was carrying a large bouquet of flowers. Florists in these centers hope that Valentines Day falls on a weekday, because clients will order flowers to be sent to friends, sweethears in offices in adjacent buildings.

But it isn’t a celebration limited to the US, France and Hong Kong. Thanks to Chris writing at, we are reminded that this is a global event. I learned form his post that in Denmark people send pressed white flowers called Snowdrops and that in Japan on February 14 women give presents to men. Their day comes on March 14 when it’s expected that men will reciprocate. In Taiwan the number of roses given has special significance (11 means “a favorite, and 108 “marry me") and for South Africa, the holiday brings tourists to the beaches.

Yet not every country celebrates with enthusiasm. In India there may be protests against this Western holiday and in Saudi Arabia celebration is banned. According to the Los Angeles Times writer Meris Lutz ( Valentines Day is “outlawed as a pagan holiday”.

This holiday often seems to be something created by the people who sell us greeting cards, its origins lost in a barrage of commercial messages. Yet, depending on where you are, the meaning is transformed, the celebratory activities varied.

Valentines Day – Global. Local. Sometimes forbidden.

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