The real romantic Chinese holiday: Lantern Festival

Source: Global Times

Forget Valentine’s Day. For romance lovers in the capital, it may be just as well that this most manufactured of Western holidays was eclipsed by the Spring Festival – on a day like that, family responsibility totally trumps affairs of the heart. But worry not frustrated lovers – this year, you get a go around! No need to fork out big bucks in a fancy hotel for a meal with prices involving eights and nines, no need to pay 10 times the price for roses and those strange cuddly animals. A perfect romantic evening can be had for the price of a cab – or if you’re really cheap – a subway ticket.

Red light district

The Lantern Festival is actually the most romantic traditional holiday in China, and we have those ancient Confucians to thank for that. In feudal society, young women were not allowed to go out freely, but on this day they were allowed to hang out with friends, and Lantern appreciation activities also gave them a chance to socialize.

Therefore, both then and now, single women and men take this opportunity to get to know each other better. Of course, nowadays, this traditional activity is gradually losing its romantic element as young women and men have the freedom to go dating on any day. But it seems that with this independence, young people eschew traditional activities, and head back home for one last night with their family.

Instead, this year what could be more romantic than a walk in one of Beijing’s parks among the beautifully decorated red lanterns – other connotations not withstanding. The sky will light up with the last of the year’s firework displays, sure to set any heart aflutter. And for singletons, it still may be a good place to catch an admiring glance or two.

Do any of Beijing’s young couples intend to have a romantic evening on Lantern Festival? Are they even aware of the traditional meaning of the event?


“I’d like to stay with my girlfriend on that day,” Liao Kai, a young man who has been in a relationship with his girlfriend for two years told Lifestyle, “although I’ve sent a bunch of flowers to her, I think I’d better spend the day with her, like go out and eat something to make up for Valentine’s Day.”


“Generally speaking, I’d like to spend it with my family,” said a traditional boy named Zhang Yi, “the Lantern Festival is included in the Spring Festival and I have no idea about the traditional Chinese romantic story on that day. But I did spend half of Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend and went back to my grandma’s in the evening to eat supper with my relatives.”

Other voices – bring the tradition back

“I think it is a byproduct of globalization that we lost many of our good traditions nowadays, not only the Lantern Festival but also some others,” Liu Yuehua, a 25-year-old girl said. “The young people have so many Western-style festivals because they think it’s fashionable. But we should not lose our tradition since it represents China and it’s unique.”

“I didn’t know about that,” said Edward, an English teacher in Beijing. “But I think it’s cool, I’ve hardly seen my girlfriend since the holiday began. I think they should promote this as a romantic holiday; I’d far rather do something like this than spend Valentine’s Day in an overpriced restaurant or bar. It’s a shame people in China don’t seem aware of it.”