Romantic Koreans make every 14th a holiday
Valentine’s Day is a strange kind of holiday. It does not exist as a matter of law like a federal holiday, and there is no day off from work or school. Yet it continues year after year, decade after decade, even century after century, because of people’s belief in the importance of love. The expression of this love, which was originally limited to the romantic variety, has expanded to include sending cards and chocolates, and perhaps giving a hug or two, to parents and friends.
Valentine’s Day is now fast approaching, and it’s surprising how controversial such a simple holiday has become.
With the ubiquity of the Internet, rival websites battle each other, the pro-Valentine’s Day group waxing poetic about romance and listing intriguing ways to spend the day with that special someone, and the anti crowd spouting off about commercialization and a veritable conspiracy between the chocolate, flower, and greeting card industries to wrest money from consumers’ pockets.
People who have significant others shout out to the world how happy they are and set forth in detail how they plan to make their unions even more joyous, while singles respond by claiming they are happy by themselves and that they don’t need someone else to complete them.
Cultural differences between people in a number of countries have also arisen. In the U.S., men tend to be the givers of gifts on Valentine’s Day, while in Japan and Korea, it is the women who do the shopping and presenting, with men reciprocating a month later.
In the U.S., some singles started a day to commemorate their solo status, giving it the unfortunate acronym S.A.D. But in Korea, singles gather rather forlornly to eat black bean noodles.
The genders are even in conflict, with men feeling the pressure to demonstrate their love, and women, in the words of some editors at cosmopolitan.com, saying, “For us, Valentine’s Day is like the big game – we really want to win.”
This year, let the battles finally end, and whether you celebrate with a lover, parent, friend or by yourself, have a happy Valentine’s Day.
Romantic Koreans make every 14th a holiday
The 14th of each month seems to be a romantic day in Korea, though most of the invented “holidays” seem to be half-hearted attempts by companies to goose up sales. Starting in January, the days are Candle Day or Diary Day, Valentine’s Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day and Hug Day.
Jan. 14 is called Candle Day by some and Diary Day by others. Those who give candles to their girlfriends or boyfriends show that they appreciate their love. Candles also symbolize warmth during the winter cold and hope for the coming year. They also might indicate self-sacrifice, as candles burn themselves up to provide light and warmth to others.
Lovers who give diaries or day planners to each other will record the activities they share together in the coming year and preserve their happy memories. Unattached people who purchase diaries for themselves can declare their affection for another in writing and make a plan on how to gain their love.
On May 14, or Rose Day, couples exchange roses, while single people wear yellow to indicate their availability.
Kiss Day, on June 14, prompts outbreaks of kissing among couples, and the media conduct surveys in many categories, such as which famous celebrities people want to kiss the most, or who would be the best kisser, and or which was the best TV or movie kiss.
Silver Day occurs on July 14. People exchange gifts of silver and announce their relationship to friends.
Aug. 14 is Green Day, a day when couples wear green and take romantic walks in the woods, while single people drink cheap soju, a distilled drink native to Korea, that comes in green bottles.
On Sept. 14, Photo and Music Day, couples take photos of themselves in a romantic place or situation and put them in a place where they can look at them throughout the year. They then go to the Korean version of karaoke, called noraebang, or night clubs to make their relationship public.
On Oct. 14, Wine Day, couples drink wine together, a great boon to liquor stores and restaurants with expensive wine lists.
Couples are supposed to go to the movies on Nov. 14, called Movie Day.
The year comes to a close with Hug Day, on Dec. 14, when couples are told to hug each other a lot, perhaps to drive away the winter blues. In a recent survey, however, of who people wanted to hug the most, the winner was “your own mother.”
There is another “special” day in November, called Pepero Day, sponsored by Lotte, the maker of candy and other confectionery. On Nov. 11, people in general, not just couples, exchange Pepero sticks, called Pocky in Japan, which come in many different flavors. If you hold two sticks next to each other, they make the number “11,” to match the date, Nov. 11, or 11/11. This day is said to be more popular than all of the special “14th” days, except for Valentine’s Day, White Day and Black Day.
Black Day offers second chance for love
If Valentine’s Day and White Day have passed and you received chocolate only from friends or colleagues because there is no one special in your life, what is one to do?
In Korea, it is time to celebrate Black Day, an informal tradition in which single people get together on April 14 to eat Jja-jang myeon, or noodles with black bean sauce, sometimes with a little white sauce mixed in.
Many people even dress all in black, including black accessories and nail polish, to embrace their single status and others “stuck” in the same situation.
The day is similar to Singles Awareness (or Appreciation) Day in the U.S., in which singlehood is exalted and couplehood mocked slightly.
While this started as a way for people to commiserate with others about their singleness, it has become a way for bachelors and bachelorettes to meet each other at special Black Day gatherings and perhaps be able to make that special connection that will enable them to take part in Valentine’s Day and White Day festivities the following year.
Jumping on the bandwagon of late have been Korean coffee companies, who are seeking to link black coffee with the day to boost sales.