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Family Trumps Love in Clash of Festivals
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St. Valentine's Day is for lovers' unions and the Chinese New Year for family reunions. But when the two come around the same time, it can be a headache and a heartache as Miranda Li can testify.

The young office executive is distraught because her boyfriend left for this weekend's family reunion yesterday, on the eve of Valentine's Day.

Despite her tears, he had to catch the train back home, leaving his girlfriend all alone in Beijing. The reason: It would have been impossible to get a train ticket any later if he has to be home for new year's eve on Saturday.

Li's plight illustrates how Valentine's Day, which has been becoming increasingly popular among Chinese in the past decade, has been subdued by the traditional Chinese New Year.

Roses, for example, are affordable. They were sold at 5-8 yuan (US$0.64-1.03) each yesterday in Beijing, almost the same as their usual price but a quarter of the price for last year's Valentine's Day.

Hotels have plenty of rooms. Sources at www.ctrip.com, one of the largest hotel-booking websites in China, said that hotels are offering discounts for lovers staying overnight, but most hotel rooms in downtown Beijing are not booked yet. Last year there were many more bookings, an assistant said.

Restaurants offering a romantic ambience are suffering. A manager surnamed Wang at a popular Yunnan restaurant in Beijing's nightlife center Sanlitun said that only fewer than half of the tables had been booked by last night. Last year, all the tables were booked, he said.

The lack of a mood for love can be attributed mainly to a busy schedule prior to the Chinese New Year. People are leaving for hometowns, visiting business partners, cleaning houses and booking family dinners and can spare little time for a Western festival.

(China Daily February 14, 2007)

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