Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and people are going crazy thinking of the perfect way to woo their significant other. Couples can’t wait to give each other cards, roses, chocolates and stuffed animals (what adults do with these stuffed animals still remains a mystery to me). Business is booming for florists and Archies stores. Social media will be flooded with cheesy pictures of couples expressing their love for each other with captions copy-pasted straight from Google (extra effort) or the much easier “Mine”/“My Valentine” followed by the red heart emoji. At the same time it is a wake-up call for all the single folks out there, who realise it’s time to get in the game.
With Valentine’s Day trending online, it isn’t surprising that there are articles on everything ranging from tips for the perfect dinner date and gift ideas to lists of the best love songs and rom-coms. There are even articles detailing “different types of hugs”.
To buck the trend, I initially thought I would write about the history behind the event. But a thesis on how an ancient pagan feast and the martyrdom of two Roman priests, both named Valentine, on February 14 along with some help from 14th century British poets led to the creation of the “Day of Love” seemed boring. The commercial side of Valentine’s Day didn’t seem very appealing either, though the unofficial holiday rakes in big bucks, bringing in around USD 20 billion annually in the US alone. Interesting Valentine’s Day trivia―like the fact that 15 per cent of American women send themselves flowers or that at-home pregnancy test sales peak in March―was next on my list, but I gave it a miss after spending an hour scouring the internet for enough interesting tidbits in vain. A compilation of the best Valentine’s Day tweets and memes would have been ideal, but someone beat me to it.
Luckily for me, the Japanese and the Koreans came to the rescue.
Japanese women have apparently had enough of the country’s Valentine’s Day chocolate giving tradition. Not only do they have to get chocolates for their partners, they also have to buy “giri choco”, or “obligation chocolates”, for all their male colleagues at work. What’s more the women don’t get anything from the men on Valentine’s Day. It isn’t all that bad for the Japanese women, though. Exactly a month later, on the 14th of March, Japan celebrates White Day where men return the favour and gift the women marshmallows and white chocolate [hence the name]. Clearly, the Japanese love chocolate and, incidentally, it was a chocolate company, Morozoff, that introduced the Western holiday to the country in 1936.
South Korea started celebrating Valentine’s Day and White Day like their neighbours Japan and took it a step further when they added Black Day to the calendar. But Black Day isn’t as depressing as it sounds. Celebrated on 14th of April, a month after White Day, Koreans, who are single and didn’t get anything for White Day and Valentine’s Day, dress in black and eat jjajangmyeon, noodles covered in black bean paste, along with other lonely souls. Over the past few years, Black Day has become a major event with matchmaking services holding speed dating events and jjajangmyeon-eating contests.
So if you are single on Valentine’s Day, don’t worry. You have plenty of time (two months to be exact) to head to South Korea and celebrate with a bowl of black noodles.