Although a fairly recent 'holiday' in Greece, Valentine's Day is increasingly celebrated throughout the country, especially among teenagers and young adults.

After the Christmas/New Year holiday, the February 14 St. Valentine's Day is the next opportunity awaited by shop owners to drum up business each year, especially in this period of economic crisis.

The crisis, however, appears to have also hit the Valentine's Day holiday market this year, with sweethearts turning increasingly to inexpensive, alternative ways of sending messages to their loved ones, such as greeting cards, dedications on radio stations, cell phone text messages, and a single bud rose or a small bouquet of wildflowers.

But the Valentine's Day holiday is also an opportunity to send a tangible gift of love to children in need.

The 'Floga' Association of Parents of Children suffering from neoplasmatic diseases has organised a five-digit telephone number, 19454, where one can send a message of love, from Monday (February 14) through Sunday (February 20), at a minimal cost, the proceeds of which will help finance the association's activities for children suffering from cancer.

The campaign, titled "All Children have the right to proper medical, mental and social care", coincide with Tuesday's International Childhood Cancer Day.

Each SMS message sent by cell phone via phone number 19454 throughout the week, costing 1.23 euros, will give 1 euro to Floga for its programs, which include the operation of an ultra-modern hostel for the accommodation for children from the periphery who are hospitalised in the oncology clinics of Athens' Children's Hospitals, home care for suffering children, psychological support for the child patients and their parents, the operation of a school for the children in the hostel, and state-of-the-art technological infrastructures at the hospitals via sponsorships.

According to Floga and the Lampsi Association of Northern Greece of Parents of Children suffering from Malignant Diseases, 250,000 children are diagnosed with cancer throughout the world each year, of which only 20 percent have access to proper medical care. Approximately 80 percent of the suffering children come from developing countries, where the ability does not exist for early diagnosis and proper treatment.

More than 150,000 cancer-related children's deaths could be avoided each year if the children had access to early diagnosis and treatment.

In Greece, an estimated 280-300 children are diagnosed with cancer each year.

According to the two associations, medical progress has resulted in 70 percent of the children with access to specialised treatment being cured.

For cancer, there is no prevention, just early diagnosis, the Associations told ANA-MPA.

The two associations, in a statement, appeal to the public to support the fight against childhood cancer. "Children have the right to proper medical care, regardless of nationality or their social or financial situation".


Crisis brings Valentine's Day discounts, special offers


The economic crisis has resulted in a major cutback in spending overall, and in holiday gifting, not only in Greece but worldwide.

This year, travel agencies, restaurants, florists and gift shops in Greece are offering Valentine's Day discounts and special packages, such as romantic dinners for two or two-day getaways for sweethearts, while sweet shops' windows are filled with heart-shaped cakes and confectionaries at affordable prices, and florists are offering special Valentine's Day specials on flowers.

The hardest-hit from the crisis, however, are jewelry shops, for which gone are the days when lovers would go all out for a gold or silver memento of their devotion.