To the best of my knowledge, the florist that's hired me on as a temp has done no business in regards to Chinese New Years, which actually started a couple of days ago on Feb 10th. Then again, the Lunar New Year apparently involves everything but flowers. There are feasts with friends and neighbors, family reunions, burning incense, prayers for a safe and prosperous New Year's. Gifts could also include flowers, but money in red envelopes is considered customary. Another custom is for a person to pay off their debts before the New Year so they can start the next year in the red.
In case you ere wondering, this year is the Year of the Snake on the lunar calendar, so if you were born in 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 or 2001, you're pretty much a Snake.
Unfortunately, single women in China in their late 20s or early 30s are often referred to unflatteringly as 'leftovers' and chastised by their family for not having a spouse yet. The overlap of Chinese New Year's and Valentine's Day on the western calendar has seemingly created an uptick of single women 'renting' boyfriends when they return home to visit family during Lunar New Years.
Rent-a-boyfriend is the latest must-have purchase for single Chinese women desperate to soothe relatives who are quick to judge their unmarried status. In China, single women in their late 20s are dubbed "leftovers" - even by state media - and reproached by parents.[As I'm writing this, the temperature in Harbin, China is -11°. I suspect 'cuddling' could also be thrown in as for a few additional yuan- NANESB!]
Valentine's proximity this year to celebrations for the Lunar New Year - when the Chinese traditionally return home to their families - has made it particularly difficult for many of female singletons to avoid difficult questions and parental disappointment.
Online searches for "rental boyfriend" have gone up by 884 percent compared to last year, according to China's most popular shopping website, Taobao.
Entreprenuerial Chinese men have set about exploiting the embarrassing social pressure and offering their services as holiday companions - for a price.
Thousands of announcements featuring a range of services, with a basic package costing 400-800 yuan ($60-$120) per day, have been posted on Taobao - a popular Gumtree-style website in China.
Extras include kissing (50 yuan per kiss), watching a movie (10 yuan per hour) and shopping (15 yuan per hour).
"$130 a day to 'pretend' to be your boyfriend and fool around with you for a few days? You drive a hard bargain, but you have yourself a deal!"And yes- I cannot let the mere mention of China or a major holiday in Asia pass without some completely gratuitous cheongsam imagery.
Of course, I seem to be inadvertently promoting this false notion that all women in China and elsewhere in Asia wear are- cheongsams all the time. That simply isn't the case. For the most part, they're usually reserved for more formal occasions and depending on the designer and fabric, many cheongsams are unaffordable to most Chinese. Of course, some places that cater to western visitors may have the staff wearing cheongsams instead of western garments because that's what the visitors are likely expecting- is sort of a chicken and egg kind of deal.
This isn't necessarily limited to China, either. A popular reality show in South Korea featured a number of contestants strutting their stuff in the silky garment that can be traced back to the Qing dynasty. Korea's Next Top Model contestant Hwang Mi Hee looks particularly stunning in the red cheongsam and gold trim she's sporting above.
China has a more traditional festival called Qixi that has been called the "Chinese Valentine's Day" since the 1990s- although that's somewhat misleading, since Qixi takes place in August. Instead of a boyfriend, fiancee or husband giving gifts, women in the same family will make offerings of flowers and tea to the spirits of two lovers named Niu Land and Zhinu while praying to find a good husband or to carry a child if already married.