Valentine’s Day comes second to New Years as the most celebrated event around the world. Though it carries a certain history, people around the world have started to celebrate Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to rejoice love. It is mostly considered popular among the young crowd.
Priyanka Tiwari, 18,
is a student who is currently taking a gap year. She is involved with United Nations Youth Advisory Panel and is planning to study political science.
The day of celebrating love, however, is not free from controversies. While non-western world such as Indonesia and Middle East has been debating over the influence of Valentine’s Day, young Chinese have a hard time choosing between Valentine’s Day and their traditional Chinese Spring Festival, as many times they take place on same dates. Mostly, Muslim countries are seen to have a problem with their young population being swept by the charm of romance on Valentine’s Day as it has Christian and pagan origins.
Pramesh Manandhar, 27, is an accountant by profession but has been participating actively in volunteer activities and youth activism and is planning to gradually venture into politics .
In addition to the religious connotations, the day of love has also been massively marketed from the business point of view. The commercialization of Valentine’s Day has flourished extensively around the world, with the symbols such as cupids, cards, flowers and soft toys at almost every store. The restaurants and hotels also offer various deals that lure couples to use their services during Valentine’s Day. Nepal is also not an exception to these events.
Shail Shrestha,26, is a social activist, mainly promoting cycling culture since 2009 with Kathmandu Cycle City 2020. He is a filmmaker by profession.
The Week decided to take on views from the young population of the Kathmandu over the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Four interesting youths from different backgrounds came together to discuss the significance of Valentine’s Day and share their views.
Aastha Pokharel, 21, has been into professional modeling since the past two years. She was also part of Asia’s next top model in Singapore, an adaptation of America’s next top model.
What do you think of Valentine’s Day? Do you have any special plans?
Pramesh: Since I ride cycles, there is a joke among the male cyclists that we don’t have girlfriends. Last year, cyclists like me had gathered in one place and from there, we had a short valentine ride. It was basically a tribute to our common passion for cycling.
Shail: I was also part of the valentine ride last year. And since it was a gathering of male and female cyclists, I think that was also a chance for interested people to look out for other people who share something in common. We might organize such events this year too.
Aastha: Valentine’s Day does not hold any significance to me. I don’t have any reason for why it should be a special day for me, so I don’t think I’ll have any plans for this year’s Valentine’s Day too.
Priyanka: I think Valentine’s Day is basically a fun day, and I don’t think that you should be romantically involved to celebrate this day. So, I might go out with my friends and celebrate with them.
What do you think is the ideal way of celebrating Valentine’s Day?
Pramesh: I take myself as a romantic person and I feel that love should be in the air all the time and round the year, not just for a day. But since nowadays there is so much of hatred and distrust among people that it is actually refreshing to see people talking about love during the month of February. Even newspapers give space to love poems, articles and photographs of couple in love rather than the same frustrating political deadlock. I think we should even gather the political leaders at one place on the Valentine’s Day and make them celebrate the day of love; you never know they might come to a mutual understanding. At least Valentine’s Day comes as a reminder to love, so no matter how people celebrate it, celebrating love even for a short time, or just a day, is meaningful for me.
Shail: Though, some people might say it’s just another day, but Valentine’s Day definitely creates a favorable environment for all of those who want to express their love. It even gives a reason for people having estranged relationship to rekindle their romance. So, the ideal way is definitely to be with the people you love.
Do you think Valentine’s Day is much hyped? Is the commercialization in the Valentine’s Day going overboard?
Priyanka: When we were in school, there used to be a much hyped Valentine’s Day. Though the charm is still the same, it’s never like when you were in school. It used to be the ultimate celebration, with people sending and receiving secret cards, flowers and gifts. We even used to pull mischievous tricks and send cards to teachers and sign some other teachers’ names on them. There used to abundant sending and receiving of roses, cards and gifts that I can’t even begin to imagine how much the students from my school helped in the commercialization.
Pramesh: Since I am an economics student, I think that commercialization is actually not a bad thing. It is necessary for the economy boom of the country. Valentine’s Day has actually created a market for flowers and cards. Though many things in Nepal are imported, there are many indirect employment attached to it. These kinds of events help a lot of entrepreneurs to explore the business. I think we should even create more events like these which can generate more market opportunities.
Shail: When I was a kid, I had given a Valentine’s card to a girl in my class, who was the school principal’s daughter (and she actually tore the card). Then, I had no idea of giving cards form Hallmark or Archie’s. My card was simple, handmade. (Priyanka: Probably why she tore it up) But nowadays, I see that even kids prefer big and expensive cards. For me, getting affected by commercialization is an individual choice.
Aastha: I think it’s once a year event so it’s okay to be materialistic for a day. But it’s not wise to fall into commercial consumerism until they can afford it. For teenagers, I recommend that they spend as much as their pocket money can afford and for those who earn themselves, they should check on with their accounts first to be spending over the top onValentine’s Day.
Is the symbol of love becoming too materialistic or are these gestures actually necessary?
Aastha: Personally, I don’t fancy celebrating with flowers and gifts but if I ever have a partner and they would like me to pamper them with such things then I would gladly comply. So, for me, it’s an individual choice.
Priyanka: My dad gives cards and flowers to my mother even though they are married for years. I think these small materialistic pleasures and gestures are necessary to let you partner know about the love you feel. These gestures are just a medium to express your love and emotion and I think it’s what keeps every relationship alive.
Shail: Valentine’s Day has become a socially accepted annual event. It gives you an ethical backup to profess your love, at least for the teenagers. So, I think these gestures that are important.
What age group, according to you, is mostly affected by the commercialization of Valentine’s Day?
Priyanka: It’s definitely teenagers who give in to the advertisements and Valentine’s Day clichés. Though other age groups might also become all cheesy on that day, the idea of love for early teenagers and for the people of my age group can be more materialistic than anything else. This is also because the concept of being in love and having a partner is a new one for teenagers and they over do it because they think that it’s the way things should be. When people grow up, they relate to each other with their personality and emotions but young people are just learning to be in love and they think that they need some materialistic proof of such feelings.
Aastha: We can see a lot of young couples holding hands and going on a date on Valentine’s Day and it’s actually very sweet. But since I have a 16 year old sister, I feel very protective about her when it comes to these issues. I honestly don’t want her to over do things and then mess it up later.
Pramesh: I think it depends upon one’s choice to be a consumer of the commercial culture and it’s not just teenagers who are affected. People choose to spend a lot of their money in five star hotels if they offer a good deal on Valentine’s Day.
Is media and celebrity culture responsible for the much hype about the Valentine’s Day?
Shail: Media does feed us with a lot of agenda but it is useless to blame media for all the hype. Mostly, it is from the foreign television channels and movies that all of us learn about such things and we give into it because we choose to.
Priyanka: It depends on every individual with their level of maturity and ability to filter information from what media is providing.
Do you take Valentine’s Day as an influence of Western culture?
Shail: St Valentine was from West and the day which is a tribute to his legacy is of course a western concept originally. But then, celebrating love is not a bad influence at all.
Priyanka: I believe that if love is global, why can’t the day be global?
Pramesh: We have evolved from a very traditional way of life but we are also trying to incorporate modern lifestyle into it. So, the perspective of Valentine’s Day is an alien concept to my parents and it’ll be more natural to the coming generations. However, I do hope that people are careful when borrowing such cultures. I’ve seen so many people looking for a time-pass during Valentine’s Day which can hurt the other person’s true emotions and feelings. Some of us might like to fool around and some of us still stand on our traditional roots, so while celebrating Valentine’s Day, one must be careful that while trying to imitate the west, we don’t end up hurting each other.
But, with commercialization and the hype, doesn’t it create a pressure for young people to spend more than they can actually afford?
Priyanka: When we were in school, some people used to go all out and send flowers to all their classmates and teachers. If every one is well off among friends and can afford such luxuries, then going over the top is actually fun. But if that is not the case and especially when you are a teenager, it is natural that the person will feel bad for matters that aren’t very important.
Pramesh: I have witnessed many instances of friends trying to go over the top even though their budget does not allow them for some extravagant affair. One of the big disadvantages of commercialization is that it creates a gap between various social classes. And if one cannot spend as much as their friends can, especially for teenagers, it definitely creates a big pressure. And when there’s so much hype, going over the top becomes necessary, even though you might need to borrow money to fulfill your desire of having an extraordinary event.
Aastha: I think it is basically pressure for boys more than girls. As our social convention is that it’s the guys who should approach first and girls should wait or respond, they’re put into a lot of pressure to spend on cards, flowers and gifts. Plus they have to make sure that the girl is impressed.
What are your suggestions for more creative programs for Valentine’s Day?
Shail: The common complaint in Kathmandu is that there are not enough recreational spaces. People can go to restaurants and movies but there aren’t many other options.
Aastha: There are enough restaurants that have special offers for Valentine’s Day but what Kathmandu lacks is variation. There can be romantic programs organized in open and public places like dance or speed dating. These programs will also help to lessen the pressure for boys who have to organize and plans and for girls, there will be less risk of something going wrong during the dates.