The history of celebrations of love throughout The Land of the Morning Calm is one of unbridled extravagance. Simply put: Koreans love holidays for couples. They have multiple days throughout the year that celebrate couples and the love they share. So, too, do they celebrate Valentines Day in a way that is quite different to western countries. They have a day a month later that correlates directly with Valentines Day, a day for singles and a couples day for each month of the year. This is fun for couples but not so enjoyable for some who find themselves without someone to spend the holidays with. Odds are most people in Korea have experienced singledom at some point in their lives. In an interview with Reuters in 2008, a young woman who did not want to be named (as she was so embarrassed), expressed how painful these celebrations can be for a single Korean:
“I had a miserable time on Valentine’s Day, felt even lonelier on White Day and now I’m crying over a bowl of black noodles…Things better be different next year.”
This is not alleviated throughout the year, as Korea has less well-known couple holidays on the 14th of every month.
January 14th: Diary Day / Candle Day
January 14th is a day for couples to give and receive a diary in order to share their most intimate thoughts by exchanging their diaries in the future. Some Korean girls like the blank pages to be filled with memories of the time they spent together. They could also fill the diaries with personal goals or plans for the year. As candles are also considered romantic, they might opt for giving their loved one a special candle instead, such as a praying candle. Whatever the choice, this holiday signifies new starts and the promise that a new year brings.
Valentines Day: February 14th
Koreans adopted the Japanese tradition of women giving chocolate to men on Valentines Day, similar to the reversal of traditional roles of Sadie Hawkins day/dances in some western countries. This is particularly interesting as there is a tradition in Korea of aegyo (애교). Women are encouraged to act shy and wait for men to get the ball rolling. There are two different ways the chocolate can be gifted. If there’s someone in a woman’s office that she does not care for romantically then she gives him giri choko, and for the man that she loves romantically — honmei choko.
This can be made even more special by the girl making handmade chocolates. In the idolised K-drama Boys Over Flowers, the lead female character, Geum Jan Di, makes Goo Jun Pyo chocolates in the shape of his face. Many women make chocolates with personalised messages and decorations. Chocolate-making kits have become big sellers and can be found at popular stores such as Artbox, however, we also suggest Bangsan Baking Market near Dongdaemun (동대문구). Paris Baguette is a popular bakery that can be found near most shopping areas and they and other European style bakeries also have a range of chocolates on offer.
In 1936, Morozoff Ltd., a chocolate shop, became the first place in Japan to display an advertisement for gift-giving on Valentines Day as a way to display affection. The western commercial version of chocolate-selling on Valentines Day did not emerge in Japan until after World War II in 1958. They emerged in Korea around the same time.
White Day: March 14th
It was not until another 20 years later in 1978 that a Japanese Confectionary Company announced that March 14th was ‘Marshmallow Day’. This became ‘white day’ and gave men a chance to show their love for their female counterparts by returning a white gift. This raised sales in sweets, such as high-priced white chocolate, marshmallows or sometimes even white lingerie.
Black day: April 14th
The idea of celebrating Valentines Day across two days was taken on by Korea and extended. Black Day is for single people. They dress entirely in black, including black nail polish and shoes and eat jjajang myron (짜장면) — noodles slathered with black bean paste. More black coffee than usual is also bought and it is similar to a day spent in mourning, although some might see it as more of a celebration.
Yellow day: May 14th
On this day, couples and singletons celebrate alike. Couples wear yellow clothes (most likely matching in other ways too) and gift each other yellow roses. The menu for groups of single people is yellow curry, which will hopefully lead to a date and perhaps the spicing up of their love lives. The flowers are in full bloom. Yellow represents the beginning of summer and might be a good time to welcome someone new into their lives.
Kiss Day: June 14
Kiss Day (you guessed it) celebrates kissing and physical affection. Perhaps it is a good day to express feelings to a crush or start a new relationship. There are special promotions along with a great deal of publicity leading up to this day where companies announce sales, particularly for lipsticks and breath fresheners.
Silver Day: July 14
On this day, couples that are getting serious exchange silver rings — these might be promise rings, engagement rings, or silver jewellery. It’s a good time to take things to the next level. Couples can even ask friends for silver coins as a way to pay for their dates.
Green Day August 14
In Korea, every day can be considered to be ‘green day’ for singles, but August 14th in particular is a day to drown their sorrows in soju (소주). For couples, it is a day to hike or do another activity outside to enjoy the beautiful scenery that abounds in summer. It is also a day for family gatherings and perhaps sporting some green fashion.
Photo Day: 14 September
This is considered to be an official day for taking photos, such as interesting portraits at studios or spending hours in themed photo booths. Noreabangs (노래방) are popular all year round but especially on this day and they’re a fun place to go at night after a day spent in front of the camera.
Wine Day : 14 October
On this day couples can have a special wine night or party, perhaps in a romantic bar or at a special event. This holiday is a good time for singles to party or kick back and drink their favourite wine. Singles on this day might drink Bokbunja (복분자), a popular wine in Korea which uses blackberries instead of grapes; Maeshilju (매실주), a very sweet dessert wine created from green plums fermented with honey or brown sugar; or Makgeolli (막걸리), a classic sweet rice wine with a tang.
Movie Day: 14 November
The temperature will have fallen to the point that it’s especially nice to stay in or go catch a movie. However, it might be especially awkward to be in the movie theatres alone in Korea on this day, as it is a special day for Koreans and their other halves to go to the movies together.
Hug/Sock Day: 14 December
Most people enjoy a good hug. Although it might be assumed that lovers hug on every other day of the year, this is a day devoted to it and, surprisingly, to socks. It’s great to receive a fluffy pair of socks just in time for the winter snow.
Whatever your relationship status, it can be fun to join in on these days and celebrate your love or your single status.
Featured image source: © 2019/11/06, https://www.esl101.com/blogs/korean-valentines-day-rules
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