15
Feb
09

Valentine’s Day

Taiwan celebrates the idea of love three times a year by including the Valentine’s Day of February 14th and the Japanese White Day in addition to the traditional seventh day of the seventh month when singletons go to temples to burn incense and pray to meet a lovely significant other.   On the February 14th Valentine’s Day, Taipei 101 lights up a heart and malls everywhere are dotted with sales for your sweetie (Really, the US should be so inclusive– we could have tried stimulating the economy with Lunar New Year withdrawals to give each other money in red envelopes).  Taiwan has also adopted White Day from Japan.

The traditional 7-7 day is the once-a-year meeting of the weaving maid and the cowherd across a bridge of magpies.  It always rains on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, since the couple are said to be crying at their reunion.  This past summer I got to visit a temple to observe the dances and sniff the incense celebrating 7-7 day.

In spite of all these modern celebrations of love, traditional Chinese love stories as far as my limited knowledge allows are rather grim.  My aunt and I spent a good chunk of the summer watching old period movies from Hong Kong that my mom and her sisters watched long ago.  The love stories all end unhappily.   An emperor falls for a mistress-spy from one of his conquered kingdoms, who costs him the empire.  A fairy falls for a human and ends up forced to return to heaven alone.  The one happy story was based on a real-life artist-poet who infiltrated a household so he could woo one of the daughters and make her his wife (in real life she was his ninth wife.)  My aunt said the abundance of  sad stories is because people there love to cry at a good tragedy.

So people in Taiwan have three days to either feel bitter, depressed, and lonely, or nervous, warm and fuzzy.

Whether you’re in a cosy couple or single and free, I hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day with chocolate on top.

7-7 day Chinese poem (scroll down for the English translation).

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