BEIJING, Feb. 13 -- Red hearts, red roses, and pink decorations have already invaded the world. Yes, Valentine's Day is approaching, according to the Gregorian calendar used in the West. The Lantern Festival, in turn, is celebrated on January 15th of the Chinese lunar calendar and officially marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. Something worth noting this year is that Valentine's Day and the Lantern Festival fall on the same day this year, February the 14th.
How should you spend the day when the festivities of east and west meet on the same day? Do you spend it with family or do you share your time with a significant other?
On Valentine's Day, couples usually enjoy candlelight dinners and, to many, it's only appropriate to give out roses to your special someone. This year, on the same night, people will hang paper lanterns and gather with family-members to usher in the lunar New Year.
Just like China's other traditional holidays, the Lantern Festival also has its own signature dish, called "Yuan Xiao", or sweet dumpling. Although the sweet dumplings vary in name and recipe across the country, they are always coated with glutinous rice flour. This year, clever merchants have combined sweet Valentine elements into the sweet dumplings. Here's Xiao Zhang, shop assistant at the time-honored Beijing Daoxiangcun Food Company.
"This year, for Valentine's Day and the Lantern Festival, we offer chocolate-filled yuan xiao, which is really popular right now. And the dumplings filled with rose petals and red bean paste are also in high demand. These are new deviations from the traditional tastes. The customers seem to like it!"
Every year, Xiao Zhang sells more than three-thousand Jin, or 15 hundred kilograms, of yuan xiao at his branch. He says the yuan xiao business is at its peak as the Lantern Festival approaches. Because the round and squishy sweet rice dumplings symbolize the reunion of family, most Chinese families would consider the festival incomplete with the absence of this key dish.
However, here is the February 14th dilemma: should you eat sweet rice dumplings with family or give your significant other a rose bouquet? One thing to consider is how the fall in flower-supplies this year has makes giving roses an expensive expression of adoration.
As the country's flower production base in Kunming, Yunnan Province, suffers from rain and snow around the Spring Festival period, the supply of roses flowers dwindled significantly, which has subsequently driven up their price.
"The price for flowers will be at least twice as much as last year's. That's according to wholesale price hikes. Roses are the most expensive! Usually, the price will only continue to go up as we approach the big day."
Appreciating the beauty of the full moon with family is quite an enjoyable activity. On this special date where Valentine's Day and the Lantern Festival meet, a good way to keep parents and your significant other happy is to bring them together at the same table. That may even save you some money.
Enjoy February 14th everyone, with love, passion and happiness, and hopefully sweet dumplings at the same time!