I send a kiss inside the petals of each rose…
So goes the inside of a Valentine card accompanied by a bundle of 99 roses. Such a floral gift and sweet note is no strange thing among lovers in Taiwan. Plato observed a love-induced uptick in brain activity. He said, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” I was proud of my poetic talent when I wrote this cooing message to my first crush at a tender age: “All that I love loses half its pleasure if you are not there to share it.” *
It is simply impossible not to notice when the ambience takes on a romantic tempo and tone as you walk down a main street in Taiwan in the first half of February. You can’t miss it when the “love season” is setting in.
Valentine’s Day takes the cake
“You know you are in love when you do not want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” – Dr. Seuss
Valentine’s Day is one of the Western holidays most celebrated in Taiwan. But do not forget that we have our own Chinese lovers’ day by the name of “Qi-Xi,” which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (whoa, that’s a mouthful!). But most of my friends would have a relatively tight sleep on Qi-Xi, doing little about it. It figures. Lovers here prefer to celebrate the Western-style Valentine; only a few observe Qi-Xi as well.
To find out why Valentine is so much more popular than Qi-Xi, I asked around and got this enlightenment: Qi-Xi is kind of old-fashioned and sounds stale and uninspiring, besides being easy to slip by unnoticed as it is obscurely marked in the Chinese calendar. By contrast, in the weeks leading up to Qi-Xi’s Western counterpart, there are all forms of hints, prompts, elbow-nudging and, thank you very much, ribs-poking alongside an intensive media bombardment aimed at lovers and old flames alike. All of these seals them into a Valentine’s environment where feigning that the day is not around or nonexistent is practically impossible.
If you happen to be one for Qi-Xi, good luck. You are supposed to observe some arcane if not archaic customs, which are serious business, including worshiping the Goddess of Bed, who many believe would foster child-bearing and protect children. Not half bad, you might say? I’m not so sure.
Valentine’s is a more casual and welcome contrast as you can whoop it up every which way you like. Your choices are abundant, ranging from the most frugal such as a love card, a bunch of roses, a box of chocolates or even a set of fancy lingerie (if intimacy says so, why not?) up to the most extravagant, such as a sumptuous champagne-boosted dinner or a pricey diamond ring. You name it, they got it.
“Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.” – Rose Franken
Companies and businesses in Taiwan become super-duper excited every time Valentine’s rolls around – they all know too well that tons of silly lovers will lose their rational compass and turn spendthrifts at the drop of the word Valentine. After all, only fools will actually “send smiles across the miles” to their loved ones for Valentine’s. (This is the equivalent of going to a birthday party empty-handed.) Rather, most lovers (also fools) will scramble to make sure that their Valentines receive a decent gift with a note that says, “This little gift is winging its way to say I love you!”
Given the constant invasion of Hollywood love movies and American culture, Taiwan is quick on the uptake in catchy things and on Valentine’s turns out to be a big consumer of all symbols of love. I just heard about a local hotel chain committed to giving away necklaces sporting a heart-shaped gemstone pendant on 14 February to patrons through lucky draws. (Is it any wonder that the hotel rooms were instantly sold out a month ago?) Even the Taiwan Post Office has issued Valentine’s stamps that give off a rosy scent. The Valentine’s commercialism is truly massive.
The Best Place to be for Valentine’s
“The most beautiful view is the one I share with you.” – Author Unknown
Although I have no objection to this statement, lovers at large would still go out of their way to find an uncommon tryst for Valentine’s that promises them an unforgettable evening. Dining on the 86th floor in Taipei 101 with a panoramic view over the city or driving up to Mt. Yang-Ming to dine and appreciate the heavenly night sky may be romantic enough for some but could be unoriginal for the most creative and daring.
Valentine’s Day has been as much a crucial test of love as a life-and-death challenge for most male lovers. They have no other choice but to up their ante year after year in their endeavor to reserve a table for two at the best restaurant they can find (or afford, to be exact), not to mention that they have to rack their brains trying to come up with the best gift idea to wow their partners year in year out. Poor men, but that’s part of the deal of living in Taiwan.
A great Valentine effect doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, if you ask me. Having a simple meal, watching a movie and taking a stroll down a busy street (or a dark back alley if it suits you better) will work wonders. What really matters is that you share a special moment with your special other and that you consciously make it happen again and again afterwards. (A caution here: All good relationships can use some “space.”) This is the true meaning of love and the gist of Valentine’s Day. Don’t you agree?
* That punchy sentence actually came from Clara Ortega.