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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2555

Challenges for marketers in Sri Lanka: Balancing the Valentine’s Day with Poya day

By Dr. Nalin Abeysekera

On 14th of February, people (especially youths) will be celebrating the Valentine’s Day all over the world. Sri Lankans consider the Valentine’s Day as a concept imported from the West. For the marketers, this is a great opportunity to increase their sales as there will be more demand for flowers, gifts as well as hotel rooms on this day. Yet, the concept of the Valentine’s Day, its history and the beginning are different from the present day celebrations.

Valentine's Day (Saint Valentine's Day) is celebrated on February 14th every year to express love, affection and care for each other by sending cards, presenting flowers or offering confectionery. The day is named after a famous saint. But there are several stories about this saint.

According to Newsround of BBC, the popular belief about St Valentine is that he was a priest from Rome in the third century AD .Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair, so, he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. There, he fell in love with the jailer's daughter and when he was taken to be killed on 14 February he sent her a love letter signed "from your Valentine".

By deviating from the real meaning of “Valentine”, at present, people all over the world celebrate the Valentine’s Day in different ways. In Sri Lanka also, the situation is the same during the last several decades and the real meaning of the Valentine’s Day is lost. Yet, there are others who argue about the Valentine’s Day and query as to why, a symbol of love is celebrated only on one day of the year, and the rest of the year, “ it” is completely forgotten. The same section of people argued about the meaning of days like “Fathers Day” and “Mothers Day”, which also have the same ideology and are western concepts, as youths in the west limit their love and care for parents (may be due to their busy lifestyle) to one day of the year and that too, in most instances is limited to sending greeting cards only. But, in counties like Sri Lanka, the bond between parents and children last forever.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka too, the market economy has invaded and destroyed relationships and traditions which were cherished for centuries. Now we can see people celebrating the Valentine’s Day which is a good sign in one way, as they have a feeling of love and affection at least on one day of the year. Many shops in Colombo and other major towns have decorated “Hearts” and other tokens of love. Many hotels have huge celebrations, especially dinners for couples and some charge higher price for rooms too.

But, this year, the “Valentine’s Day celebrations” may be different as it is on a Poya Day (Navam full moon Poya Day). Navam Poya is a significant event for Buddhists as two important events took place on that day; the first congregation of Maha Sangha or the First Buddhist Council, and the appointment of two chief disciples of the Buddha as Aggasavakas (chief disciples of the Buddha), Sariputta and Moggallana.

On Poya days, Buddhists (Majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists) worship at temples. Generally, shops and businesses are closed on Poya days, and the sale of alcohol and meat is forbidden in all parts of the country.

Therefore, hotels also will not be able to sell liquor and meat which leads to a drop in business. Therefore, the number of youths celebrating the Valentine’s Day on Poya Day may also be less. This will be a challenging situation for the marketers selling “Valentine Products”. In Strategic Management, these factors are called as PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal and Environmental) which cannot be controlled, but have to be adjusted accordingly. This kind of situations are named as social factors and the ways and means, a company faces such situations will be a case study of External Environmental scanning in marketing and Strategic Management.

On the other hand, this is an opportunity for the religious leaders to show the real meaning of life to devotees and encourage them to temples (this is something called “marketing for nonprofit organizations”) to convince them about the real meaning of “Love” instead of the marketing form of “Love.”

- Asian Tribune -

Saint Valentine is widely believed to have been alive in the third-century
diconary view
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