Valentine’s Day finds a niche in Islamic Iran
Iran: Iran may reject Western influences, but Valentine’s Day has
become a growing phenomenon thanks to the romantically minded youth of
the Islamic state’s affluent classes. Although the ruling clerics and
hardline politicians have been waging a campaign against what they call
“decadent” cultural imports, the Christian day dedicated to amorous
displays has so far survived.
Part of the reason could be the sheer number of young adults in the
country: 60 percent of the 75 million-strong population is under 30, and
one Iranian in three is aged 15 to 30.
With many of them unmarried, and with bars, clubs and mixed parties
all banned under the country’s strict laws, Valentine’s Day is
increasingly seen as a tolerated courting opportunity -- one whose
commercial side is much appreciated by Iranian retailers.
Several shopkeepers in Tehran told AFP that demand for rose bouquets,
sentimental cards with the English word “love”, chocolate, perfume and
even teddy bears was strong, adding to a growing trend of recent years.
The owner of one Italian restaurant, who asked not to be identified,
said his establishment was booked up well in advance by couples.
Elmira, a 24-year-old architecture graduate in the capital who
declined to give her last name, said most of those participating in the
annual romantic ritual were young people from the middle and upper
“The usual routine each year is an exchange of gifts and then going
out for dinner,” she said.
Valentine’s Day “used to be huge for me,” she said, but now she was
looking for something more meaningful. “Silly traditions do not really
matter if there are no feelings involved.”
There are signs, however, that the authorities’ patience with the day
is wearing thin.
Last year, officials banned the production and sale of Valentine’s
Day items. Conservatives insist there is no room for such immodest
declarations in devout Islamic culture. They have become alarmed at the
rapid decline in the number of marriages in recent years, blaming the
trend on Western superficiality.
Nationalistic Iranians prefer to celebrate their love on Mehregan, a
pre-Islamic and little-observed festival in October that honours Mithra,
the ancient Persian goddess of love.
But so far at least, young Iranian couples are still able to take
part in Valentine’s Day.
Saba, an 18-year-old graphics student in the northeast holy city of
Mashhad, said that for her, the day was not at all about adopting a
Christian calendar but rather because “I would love to receive gifts and
She added though that she thought it safer to attend a private party
in a home than risk a restaurant or other public place which could
attract unwanted attention from Iran’s morality police, who enforce
Islamic-based codes on dress and behaviour.