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Global holiday traditions range from romantic to quaint

Feb. 9, 2001



Is Valentine's Day such a big deal outside America? How do people celebrate it? For most European countries, the answer is no. In France or Germany, for example, Valentine's Day turns out to be a minor event for lovers but a major marketing event for companies. Because of the advertising, no one can ignore it, but not everybody will celebrate it.

'Valentines seems to be an invention of flower shops and bookstores,' said Corinna Marx, an exchange student from Germany, adding that she only remembers it because of all the stickers in the shops. 'But I never celebrate it, and none of my friends do.'

In Russia, Valentine's Day is becoming more important since the country opened up to Western culture.

'It is a new holiday. The first time we had it, it was three years ago,' said Alena Sonina, a junior from Russia.

She said that as it is a new celebration, only young couples really celebrate it. Sonina also said that shops are not making profits and do not offer big sales yet.

'It becomes more popular each year. Probably in several years it will be more popular,' Sonina said.

While Europeans would say they don't need a special day to celebrate someone they like, individuals from Asian countries seem to be more eager to focus on love ceremonies.

In Japan, Valentine's Day has become a day for girls to express their feelings to the boys. 'Girls who have a crush on someone or who already have a boyfriend will give him chocolate,' said Kaori Ishimoto a junior from Fukuoka, Japan.

Not only does Japan have Valentine's Day it also has other love and friendship festivals. In a country where people are very dedicated to their jobs and colleagues, Valentine's Day has become part of their work.

'Sometimes we have to give chocolates for co-workers as a mark of friendship,' said Misuzu Hirama, a Japanese junior also from Fukuoka. 'We call it duty chocolate.'

On March 14, called the 'White Day,' boys give presents back to the girls. According to the rule of 'Triple return,' men will offer women something three times more expensive than what they received.

'My auntie gave small chocolate hearts to her co-workers and one of them gave her back a whole box of a very good chocolate brand,' said Tomoko Sudo, a junior from Tokyo, Japan.

China also celebrates love twice each year. Besides Valentine's Day, the Chinese celebrate love on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Calendar. The Chinese traditional celebration was on Feb. 6.

'In [ancient] times, it was only on that day that girls could go out and not stay at home,' said Julia Chiu, a sophomore exchange student from Hong Kong. 'Lots of educated people looking for a wife would go out. The guy who found a girl he likes would go to her house to ask the parents to marry her.'

Now the Valentine's tradition is quite different as girls have more freedom. Lots of lanterns with one-sentence poems are still hanging in the streets Chiu said, but Valentine's Day is like that in the United States. Couples in Hong Kong would now go to a park called Yon Chu Tao and stay under the big trees.

'You come with an orange and a lot of paper sheets on which you write your wishes. Then you throw them in the tree,' Chiu said.

'If it hangs into the tree, it means good luck. If it falls down, that's not good.'