SHANGHAI -- Wu Yiran, 23, booked a table at a Korean restaurant for dinner with her boyfriend on Friday night as part of an early St. Valentine's Day celebration, which falls on Saturday.
"I put it a day earlier because restaurants will be overcrowded and meals will be overpriced on the Valentine's Day," said Wu, who works for a Shanghai-based joint venture.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the western Valentine's Day celebrated on February 14 has become a one-hundred-percent spending spree in China. And this year, crisis or not, neither merchants nor lovers are going to leave this festive weekend alone.
Shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants and entertainment venues prepared a week before the festival with roses, balloons, gifts and discounts.
Special counters for jewelry, flowers, teddy bears, chocolates and other gifts were set up in most shopping centers, and love songs echoed from every corner.
Beijing's Grand Pacific department store transformed its entrance into a wedding scene for the Valentine's Day promotion even on the night of the Chinese traditional Lantern Festival, which came five days earlier.
Both western-style and Chinese restaurants were advertising wine-and-dine packages at differing price tiers to attract different groups.
Quanjude, a 145-year-old restaurant chain known for Peking roast duck, also promoted Valentine's Day package menus this year in its branches in Beijing, Shanghai and Qingdao, an eastern coastal city widely known for brand worship.
The Beijing Happy Valley theme park said it would offer a free ticket to ladies who came with their partners and arrange special activities for lovers during the Valentine's Day weekend.
Even blood donation centers were offering special gifts to donors. The Changsha Blood Center in central Hunan Province said they would present roses and movie tickets to lovers who donate blood on February 14, a tradition they have followed for the past four years.
Valentine's Day is symbolic of caring for others, and in that spirit, more than 700 people across the city donated blood last Valentine's Day, twice as much as on usual days, Xu Zhaoxian, an employee with the center, told Xinhua.
For lovers who are racking their brains to make arrangements for the special day, Google China has launched a special map that provides information on recommended gifts, performances, theaters, bars, KTVs, hotels, scenic spots, parks and discounts for Valentine's Day in Beijing.
A candlelight dinner and a romantic movie are standard for many lovers in China, and a one-or-two-day tour is also a hot choice as Valentine's Day falls on a weekend this year.
Statistics from Ctrip, a leading online travel agency in China, showed that the number of short tour-reservations for this weekend doubled from usual weekends.
Ma Xing, a Ctrip PR staff member, said spas and skiing were favorite activities of customers in Beijing and Shanghai during this year's festival.
Due to the global financial crisis, many merchants decided not to give luxurious offers such as deluxe suites. Netizens also discussed ways to save money on Valentine's Day.
Cooking meals at home and folding paper roses were among popular online suggestions for an inexpensive romantic Valentine's Day.
"With good ideas, we still can cut the spending without discounting the romance," said a netizen from Hubei Province on qq.com.
Wu preferred staying at home in Shanghai on Valentine's Day and hanging out with her boyfriend some other time.
"It's not a big deal if we don't celebrate Valentine's Day," she said. "We all know it's a lucrative festival for merchants." ((Xinhua) Updated: 2009-02-12 11:15)