Millions of singles - and their parents - looking for love this Lunar New Year
Valentine's Day and fear of being branded a 'leftover' has millions looking for a spouse
Xiong Jian, a 26-year-old communications engineer working in Hunan, thought marriage was a distant prospect until two weeks ago when he received a call from his mother in Wuhan telling him she had found a girl he could meet during this month's Lunar New Year holiday.
For Xiong and millions of other young singles working far from their parents, this year's seven-day holiday, starting Sunday, has a new meaning - finding a spouse. That's because the fifth day of the holiday coincides with Valentine's Day.
A report by the China Association of Social Workers' matchmaking service industries committee and Baihe.com one of the mainland's biggest matchmaking websites, said more than 80 per cent of people born since 1980 were facing family pressure to get married, with singles in their late 20s and early 30s with good jobs and education desperate to find a suitable mate for fear of being branded a "leftover".
For some, that pressure is too much. One 35-year-old "leftover woman" in Dalian sought psychiatric help after attempting to slit her wrist because of the mounting stress of being alone as the Lunar New Year approached, the New Business Daily reported.
Such reports add to the pressure on singles and their anxious parents, who cannot wait to grab the once-a-year opportunity to arrange blind dates for them.
Niu Dan, an online editor for the matchmaking section of a website in Shenyang, Liaoning, has been busy organising matchmaking events for Valentine's Day. There will be five such events this year, two more than last year, and almost 2,000 singles are expected to brave the cold to find a partner.
"Valentine's Day falls on the fifth day of the Lunar New Year holiday - no more relatives visiting or family dinners," Niu said. "And young people are all at home, which makes it a perfect time to meet someone."
Sharon Tang, 33, will meet two men during the six days she will spend at home for the Lunar New Year, with both meetings arranged by her parents. They are from the same small Hubei town where she grew up and also work in Beijing.
Tang said the pressure to get married had intensified since she turned 30, the age at which unmarried women are normally branded a "leftover". But she had no expectations that she would find her husband this holiday.
"In small towns, being single is often seen as erratic, especially for women," Tang said, "I just do it [meet the men] to shut up gossiping neighbours and appease my parents."
But some still see the holiday as a chance to find a mate. IT engineer Benny Ban, 24, was also told by his mother that she had set up a blind date during his holiday trip back to Dezhou, Shandong .
Describing himself too shy to find a girlfriend, Ban said he was "cautiously optimistic". "Anyway, it's an opportunity for me, and [blind dating] is how most of our parent's generation met and got married, right?" he asked.