23 July 2024

Hanoi, Vietnam – Young men and women flocked to an ancient pagoda in central Hanoi on Wednesday hoping a Valentine’s Day offering would help them find a partner — a major priority for many Vietnamese.

Office worker Nguyen Thi Ly respectfully placed a tray with sweets, water, money — fake bills of both dong and US dollars — and the familiar Valentine’s roses on the altar at the Ha Pagoda.

“Please help me Buddha, I want to have a boyfriend this year to stop being single,” she mumbled before the altar, already packed with dozens of other similar trays.

Vietnam is a communist state but Buddhist and Confucian traditions are still strong, with many people going to pray on the first, middle and last days of the lunar month for peace, luck and prosperity.

While Valentine’s Day stems from Christianity, Vietnamese have increasingly marked the occasion in recent years, seeking divine intervention in their love lives.

“It’s a spiritual procedure, but it reflects that young people now have become insecure about how to find the right other half,” said educational psychology expert Tran Thanh Nam.

A woman prays to find love on Valentine’s Day at Ha Pagoda in Hanoi on February 14, 2024. Young men and women flocked to an ancient pagoda in central Hanoi on February 14 hoping a Valentine’s Day offering would help them find a partner — a major priority for many Vietnamese. //AFP

– ‘Like robots’ – 

Heavily focused on his work as a doctor, Nguyen Van Duong is single in his early 30s. His marital status worries his parents and himself.

“My parents are getting older day by day. They just want me to get married and have kids,” Duong explained as his reason for worshipping on Wednesday.

Marriage and family are traditionally important in Vietnamese society, increasing pressure on young people to wed and have children.

The legal marriage age is 18 for women and 20 for men, but as in many increasingly urban, educated societies, few Vietnamese settle down so early.

In 2022 the average age of marriage was just under 30, according to official data reported by state media.

Too much focus on work, and the usual distractions of the 21st century — smartphones, internet and social media — have eroded would-be young sweethearts’ social skills, psychology expert Nam told AFP.

A man holds a tray of offerings to pray to find love on Valentine’s Day at Ha Pagoda in Hanoi on February 14, 2024. Young men and women flocked to an ancient pagoda in central Hanoi on February 14 hoping a Valentine’s Day offering would help them find a partner — a major priority for many Vietnamese.//AFP

“They have become like robots,” he said. This may partly explain the appeal of supernatural assistance.

“I have prayed here at this pagoda five times for a relationship,” Nguyen Thi Trinh, 26, told AFP.

“I believe I will be blessed with a boyfriend this year, so that the family would stop asking ‘When are you going to get married?'”

by Agence France-Presse