March 16, 2013
Lovers And The Lonely: Korean Romantic Holidays
For most single people, once Valentine’s Day is over, the time for mushy lovey dovey stuff is over for an entire year. Plus, there’s the bright side of discounted Valentine’s Day candy at every store. The ability to put oneself in a self-induced chocolate coma for 24 hours was always kind of a relief. That is not the case in South Korea. They have three holidays that they use for couples to be together and buy each other gifts, and a fourth holiday for the single people.
Since most Korean people are not Christian, Christmas is used as one of the three holidays dedicated for couples to be amorous with each other, most frequently adults. Many couples will go away for a vacation together. One couple that I am very close with went to the Philippines for Christmas. This is one way they celebrate the coupley lovey dovey days in South Korea.
The girl I was seeing wanted to go away for two nights as well, but since I was unaware of this tradition I had already made plans to host a Christmas party for people at my house. Needless to say, I got in trouble; but that point is moot.
Valentine’s Day is a given; but for reasons I will go into, they don’t quite celebrate Valentine’s Day like westerners do. In Korea, on Valentine’s Day, the girls give their boyfriends or significant others a gift without expecting one in return. I got an earful from a few lady friends of mine who are/were dating Koreans at the time of Valentine’s Day; they didn’t get any gifts after they gave their man some presents.
That is the basic difference between celebrating Valentine’s Day in the West and celebrating both Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan, Korea, or Taiwan. It is basically about who gifts what to whom and when. On Valentine’s Day, the woman does all the work and gives her man candy, usually chocolate. The old fashioned way was for a woman to make the chocolate by hand. A month later on March 14th, if the man wants to be with her, he will give her a gift worth three times as much to show he is interested. If he gives a gift of the same value, which signifies that the relationship is over. If he doesn’t give a gift at all, it is him showing his superiority. I personally find this puzzling, to say the least; but it is what it is in Korea.
The idea of White Day came from Japan, and started in 1978. It was started by the National Confectionery Industry Association. It is literally a made up holiday so that men would give women something. In 1977, a Japanese company sold marshmallows and called it Marshmallow Day. From there it grew and spread across Asia, becoming White Day.
Then there is April 14th, also known as Black Day. It is for single people to sulk with their fellow single people. The tradition here is all the single friends get together and go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant. All the single people order the same dish and get jjajyangmyeon, or “black noodles.” Personally, I like this dish a lot; but if there is one day a year I don’t want to eat it is April 14th.
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