Comparing the Chinese Lantern Festival with St. Valentine’s Day PDF Print E-mail


Lantern23We tried to compare these two festivals from different perspectives, and hope to find some interesting similarities and differences.  In the following, we would like to share our opinions with you.  You are also welcome to contribute your ideas or give us your feedback.




1. Both originated from religious beliefs, and then became secular in later ages.  The Chinese Lantern Festival was not romantic at all when it was first set by an administrative order, as an emperor tried to imitate the Buddhist tradition to show his respect and worship to Buddha.  St. Valentine’s Day can be traced back to an ancient Roman festival Lupercalia, which was later Christianised as a remembrance day for a martyr.


2. Both embrace the theme of love.  When it was more and more popular with exciting lantern displays and many other jolly activities, the Chinese Lantern Festival became an opportunity for unmarried people to meet their potential beloveds – that is why some would call it ‘Chinese Valentine’s Day’.  Its Western prototype was originally romantic: dedicated to the Roman god of love and fertility, Lupercalia contained the ‘love lottery’ system; later, St. Valentine’s legends still possess a strong implication of love.  However, such love, between men and women, later extended to a broader sense that embraced the emotion towards family and friends – in this case, both festivals possess a social function that involves everybody.


3. Like in many other similar occasions, symbolic food is involved in the celebrations of both festivalsYuanxiao is a must for Chinese Lantern Festival, as its round shape represents family reunion, the first priority in Chinese concept.  Interestingly, a heavily sweet and bitter stuff, chocolate, becomes a popular gift on St. Valentine’s Day – doesn’t it taste like love?


4. It may be a bit annoying to discover both festivals can be environmental unfriendly, as those paper lanterns and St. Valentine’s Day cards can result in more deforestation, thus deepen environmental problems.




1. These two festivals evolved differently.  In general, the Chinese Lantern Festival evolved from Buddhist to secular, while St. Valentine’s Day from pagan to Christian, and then to secular.  The transformation of the Chinese Lantern Festival is relatively slow compared to that of St. Valentine’s Day.  This may due to the fact that people from Eastern countries may have more conservative minds, as they are taught to respect and worship things that are passed from the older generations or they do not understand, whereas Western people may be more open-minded, and tend to create beyond old customs and traditions.


2. Different festive emphases can be identified.  The Chinese Lantern Festival was set for religious worship at the beginning, and then gradually transformed to a socialising occasion that reflected people’s desire to love freely against the feudal restrictions; as time goes by, it now contains an emphasis on family reunion.  Although St. Valentine’s Day becomes secular as well, it associates with a stronger implication of romance between lovers than its contrast.  Also, St. Valentine’s Day is more commercialised compared to the Chinese Lantern Festival, which is more family oriented.


3. They contain different celebrations.  The Chinese Lantern Festival is observed with magnificent lantern displays; overseas celebrations are organised by Chinese communities, although some people from other ethnic groups might be attracted to the festivities as well.  It looks like a big party on the street with dragon dance and lanterns displayed.  Contrastingly, St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated with romantic dinners and gifts, and is worldwide spread with more and more local participation – lovers are after all the same and would never miss any chance to show their romantic side!