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Valentine’s Day: Love it or hate it, but impossible to ignore in Asia

Lamat R Hasan/ANN | New Delhi |

In South Asia, the anti-love brigade has upped its ante – ready to catch lovers unawares, especially those spilling into the streets or in parks – as a special lovers day is “against their culture”.
The official day of love – Valentine’s Day – is just a day away.

Across Asia, lovers are busy trying to fix up last minute surprises for their partners and those without partners are hoping to find love. It is difficult to give the many red ribbons, little hearts, teddy bears, and coffee mugs with cheeky messages, lining the shelves of shops a miss. Hotels and restaurants are offering special packages to make the day memorable and florists and bakers are sure to go laughing all the way to the bank.

In South Asia, the anti-love brigade has upped its ante – ready to catch lovers unawares, especially those spilling into the streets or in parks – as a special lovers day is “against their culture”.

There are some making a mockery of this day – as there cannot be a day of love,  and some others dismissing the day as boring and a perfect marketing gimmick.

While there hasn’t been much research in Asia, so far, one in four couples contacted in the US claim they find the Valentine’s Day rituals boring, even though a whopping 80 percent are still eager to celebrate.

While men are expected to woo their women and shower them with gifts, Japan is an exception. Here it’s the women who have to worry about buying that perfect gift.

Google Photos has introduced a special feature too – in honour of Cupid. “We even have a Valentine’s Day-themed movie for you and your sweetheart”, Google product manager Julia Winn reportedly told the media.


Thailand kicks in V-Day celebrations early. There are special dinners in romantic settings for sweethearts the entire month. Chocolates and gifts fly off the shelves. Quick getaways are also hot-selling.

After wooing couples with a helicopter trip last year, the Peninsula is offering a luxury cruise on a yacht to lovers, reports the Nation.

Many see the Valentine’s Day as the perfect day to propose. Thailand’s is trying to cash in on the idea by combining travel with Valentine’s Day. “…you pop the ultimate question to your significant other – ‘Will you marry me?’ – is ready with figures to show just how much happiness travel can bring,” reports the Nation.


Chocolate, flower sales are expected to hit the ceiling in Indonesia, according to the Jakarta Post. Last year chocolate sales jumped by over 650 percent and flowers sales recorded a 250 percent increase.

Indonesia, a perfect getaway for a short holiday, is offering special spa treatments for lovers in Jakarta. “The activity is not only romantic, but it also helps to rejuvenate you and your loved one,” the Jakarta Post reported.

There’s also a special Valentine’s Day jewellery collection by Thomas Sabo. The line is called “Together”. This apart from the usual symbols of love – the heart and the ring.


Away from the flowers and chocolates routine, lovers will be treated to a Valentine’s Day special telefilm – “Myth-jibi” – a story that explores the various facets of a relationship.

Husband-wife duo Azizul and Zeenat Hakim teamed up for this. “It cannot merely thrive on love. A relationship grows deeper with dependency,” Zeenat tells the Daily Star.

The tulips are on sale. And there are recipe suggestions floating for making a special stay-at-home dinner.


People in love have learnt to take India’s saffronised brigades’ warnings to blacken faces or humiliate lovers in their stride. Young lovers are shopping for clothes – “a little red dress” or “a flirty mini skirt” – as an expert suggested to The Statesman.

In fact, some others are advising them to experiment with colour and not just stick to red – the colour of love.

Stylist Tanvi Malik tells lovers to try out pastel shades and go pink and mauve. Natascha Tate, another stylist, tells them to make it a blue Valentine.


In Pakistan, a fairly traditional society, many see Vaentine’s Day as a western concept which is contrary to the Islamic culture. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has a ban on promoting V-Day festivities.

While social media users mocking the regulatory body, the world knows that Pakistani lovers have smartened up over the years, and much like their neighbours across the border, have learnt to give the culture brigades a slip.


Valentine’s Day is a once-a-year battle that shopping malls cannot afford to lose. Apart from discounts and promotions, decorations are also a critical factor in attracting customers, reports China Daily.

In downtown Shanghai a “Pink Love” season was launched last month especially for millennials, and a romantic comedy “Miss Puff” has hit screens just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Based on the true story of a couple from Xi’an, the capital in Shaanxi province, the 95-minute feature tracks the love story of a Thailand-educated woman and a college student, who is five years younger than his love interest.

The celebrations coincide with the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Dog. The streets wear a festive look and everyone’s home to be with family.

In Japan, it’s the women who worry about the gift for their lover. The favour is returned a month later, according to a media report. In Cambodia, academic insitutes had to warn school kids last year from not confusing Valentine’s Day for a day to have sex, the Phnom Penh Post reported. A 2014 survey in Phnom Penh of 15- to 24-year-olds in couples found 15.8 per cent were planning to have sex that Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day dates back to ancient Rome and there are several stories about its origin.

The romantic holiday, according to Britannica Encyclopedia, originated from the Roman festival of Lupercalia where men and women were paired with each other through a lottery draw. The festival also included rites where women were hit by men, allegedly to boost their fertility. Britannica says by the end of the 5th century, Pope Galasius I replaced the festival with Saint Valentine’s Day, an NDTV report says.

Other versions claim the festival of love is named after a martyred saint called Valentine who was killed by King Claudius II Gothicus. As per other accounts, the holiday was named after Saint Valentine who secretly married off couples to spare their husbands from war.

One isn’t sure if lovers needs a special day to celebrate love, but it is surely difficult to not cringe at the length the market forces can go to sell good old love.