February 14, 2006

PASSING FANCY: Senior high school students in Surakarta, Central Java, hand out flowers Monday to passengers on a Wonogiri-bound train stopping in Sriwedari. They also pasted romantic messages and paper decoration, all in pink, on cars in the spirit of Valentine's Day. (JP/Blontank Poer)

Teens unlock secrets of Valentine's Day

Seizy Marcele Melody, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Most young people in Jakarta could not tell you why Valentine's Day is celebrated -- though they may not be willing to forgo the flowers, the cuddly stuffed toys, the handmade chocolates and cards usually associated with it.

Some say the most romantic of holidays is a product of American culture, others say its origins are Greek.

As historians debate the true identity of the patron of lovers, Saint Valentine, students look to translated Japanese comics, or manga, to unlock the secrets of the tradition.

Seventeen-year-old Diza Permata Sari said she learned all about Valentine's Day through comics, in which girls give chocolates, candies or cakes to their high-school sweethearts.

Handmade gifts are more worthy than bought ones, explain all most all the comic-book characters.

"If the feeling is mutual, the girl has to wait until 'White Day', or March 15, for the boy to give her a candy as a token of his affection," Diza said.

"But not everyone acknowledges White Day here," she said. According to the comics, Valentine's Day is for females, White Day is for the boys.

Fahriza Hastya, 13, has celebrated Valentine's Day since she was in elementary school.

"I usually give chocolates to my boyfriend and my best friends. This year will be no different," she said.

Fahriza said the day was worth celebrating as it was named after a priest who was murdered because he was in love with the "wrong" woman.

But Tommy Junior Purnama, 17, said Valentine's was only for teenagers experiencing puppy love.

"We don't have to wait until Valentine's Day to show we care. I have a girlfriend, and she agrees with me -- we don't have to celebrate the day as we show our love every day," he said.

"But, for those who are in to it (Valentine's), well, there's nothing to stop them," he said.

While most teenagers see Valentine's as a break from routine, many parents worry that they could get carried away.

"For Indonesian teenagers, especially Muslims, it is not necessary to celebrate Valentine's Day," said Dapiarso, chairman of the school board of State High School No. 47 in Tanah Kusir, South Jakarta.

"Besides, it is not part of our culture, it's a celebration that could (in the end) make free sex legal. So it's better if we don't celebrate it at all," he said.