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August 24, 2012

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Local couples get in the mood for Qixi Festival

YESTERDAY'S Qixi Festival had local love birds in a tizzy with some rushing to tie the knot, others exchanging gifts and a few complaining about the increasing sweet burden of the feast.

The city's marriage registration centers reported a big jump in the number of couples who drew their marriage certificates on the festive day, dubbed Chinese Valentine's Day. A total of 1,874 couples tied the knot yesterday, about three times the number on a normal day. The May 1 figure was 601 this year. But it still failed to surpass last Qixi's number of 3,342 when the festival fell on a Saturday.

At the Changning center, couples waited patiently for their materials to be reviewed. Some wore red clothing as red is said to be auspicious in China.

Liu Xiong, an information technology professional, and his wife-to-be Xu Tu waited outside the photography room of the center. There were seven couples ahead of them. Both had taken leave from office to catch the auspicious date.

"The moment we decided to get married months ago, I picked up Qixi as I think (to tie the knot on) our own traditional 'Lover's Day' is more meaningful and beautiful," Xu said.

The Pudong marriage registration center was packed with lovers in the morning, with one couple saying they had arrived as early as 4:50am.

"To our surprise, one couple had arrived even earlier than us!" the husband surnamed Pan said. Another couple which arrived at 8am said they had to wait for more than two hours.

As expected, local flower shops were doing booming business. Roses sold at a premium of about 20 to 30 percent and delivery fees were also doubled to 40 yuan (US$6.3) from 20 yuan.

A flower shop on Shaanxi Road S. sold more than 100 flower bouquets. "But the sales are not as good as last year's festival when we sold about 200 bouquets," shop owner Lu Baoqun said as his mobile phone kept ringing with customers inquiring about orders.

However, for those not yet ready to say "I Do", exchanging gifts and going on dates was the norm, which proved to be a costly, if sweet, burden for some.

A Taobao survey found that Shanghainese spent the largest amount of money in buying the largest number of Qixi gifts in China, with flowers, chocolates and plush toys topping the gift list. The money spent by locals on Qixi gifts accounted for more than nine percent of the total figure. Many netizens showed off their gifts online.

"It's getting increasingly expensive (to say 'I love you')," Ji Weiling, who works in customs, complained.

He said he had spent 300 yuan to buy a perfume as gift for his girlfriend and another 500 yuan for a candlelight dinner and movie. "It is a costly romance but, anyway, I want to make my girlfriend happy," he said, shrugging off the expense.

Some netizens joked that at this rate they would go bankrupt as there were so many festivals related to lovers.


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