Valentine’s Day rarely celebrated overseas

For most international students, Feb. 14 is just another day.


Grant Walter

Grant Walter/THE CHIMES

Jason Wheeler, Writer

The day when a saint who illegally married young men and women was martyred is celebrated strangely — in America, his death is commemorated by spending money on candy, cards and flowers for loved ones. On the other hand, some choose to celebrate by planning an awesome way to ask someone out, only to get shot down and spend the rest of the day listening to 1980s pop-rock songs. Yet, some countries don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, though intercultural studies professor Murray Decker said he has seen a growth in the acceptance of romantic love overseas.

“One of the exports of western ideas is the globalization of romantic love trumping traditional values,” Decker said. “In the African and Islamic world, traditional arranged marriages are about social prestige and financial security.”

Decker went on to explain how the individualism of the American view of love is different from how other cultures see marriage.

“An individualistic culture will pursue these [love and marriage] emotionally without thought or greater impact of how it would affect the church or family,” he said. “Many other cultures see it as very important decisions never made outside the framework of the family.”

Although romantic love seems to be growing in popularity outside of western culture, it seems that celebration of Valentine’s Day is not as widespread.

Emily Sudman from Kenya

Sophomore intercultural studies major Emily Sudman, who grew up in Kenya as a missionary kid, noted how Valentine’s Day was celebrated only by Americans and other westerners.

“My high school was an American school,” Sudman said. “The biggest thing we did concerning Valentine’s Day was do fundraising type things and go on a class trip for senior year. The more money we raised, the nicer the hotel and more all-inclusive stuff.”

Sudman’s class went to the Kenyan coast to have a week-long vacation. They stayed at a hotel and went Jet Skiing and windsurfing.

Sudman also echoed Decker’s statements concerning romantic love. She noted that it has transitioned with the younger generations more quickly than western holidays have, with traditionalized arranged marriage most often seen outside the cities in the villages, where marriages are held within each individual tribe.

Robin Shan from China

Senior business administration major Robin Shan, an international student from China, said that Valentine’s Day does exist in China, but it is slightly different than American Valentine’s Day. Since the Chinese Calendar is lunar, Valentine’s Day — or Qixi — takes place between late July or early August every year. Shan shared one of the legends regarding Chinese Valentine’s Day.

“It’s very traditional,” Shan said. “This girl is a goddess who fell in love with a mortal, but the king above has to separate them. Once a year they are able to be together.”

Qixi is celebrated in the same way as western Valentine’s Day. Young people give each other roses, chocolates and other fun items. Shan mentioned celebrating it himself and seeing other friends celebrate it.

Shan noted how the display of romantic love is not as open as it is in the West.

“If a guy and girl love each other, they don’t show it publicly and won’t even be able to tell each other until they get married,” said Shan, who also noted how the celebration of Western holidays like Valentine’s, Christmas and Thanksgiving show that Chinese young people are quickly adopting Western culture.

Karissa Jackson from Cameroon

Sophomore liberal studies major Karissa Jackson saw nothing similar to Valentine’s Day as a missionary kid in Cameroon, West Africa. The reason, Jackson said, is that relationships are not based on whether one person likes another. Instead, girls take part in arranged marriages at 12 or 13 years old. However, Jackson would celebrate Valentine’s Day at her house because her family is American. In coming to America, Jackson found an entire culture elevating and celebrating Valentine’s Day to be rather odd.

“It’s weird that it’s a special day for couples to do something,”Jackson said. “That’s very foreign to me, the idea that one day in particular is special for couples to go do something.”

Being raised by western parents gave Jackson a grasp of what romantic love is like, but she finds the American custom of dating many different people, either just to date, get to know people or just for fun, to be strange. Jackson pointed out that, in Cameroon, dating someone is meant for the intention of marriage.

Jackson prefers romantic love to arranged marriages. She remarked how most of her friends were forced to marry at 13, have children at 15 or 16 and had their third child by the time she came back home from Biola.

Though westernized romantic love is quickly creeping around the globe, Decker mentioned that the concept of romantic love was not invented in the West. He explained that Song of Solomon contains certain amounts of amorous passion, but that we’ve taken the idea to new commercial heights.

Photos | Grant Walter/THE CHIMES

0 0 votes
Article Rating