True Feeling Chocolate, Mass Weddings, Singles Days: Valentine’s Day Customs Throughout Asia
Candy. Flowers. Jewelry. While we’re sure you’re familiar with Valentine’s Day customs in the West, how about in Japan, South Korea, and China? Check out some love customs and traditions that are practiced in countries throughout Asia.
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is twice as nice
"Two lovers under an umbrella" by Kiyonobu Torii, 1705
Valentine’s Day is celebrated not just once but twice in Japan. The first time is on Feb. 14 but with a twist: women are the chocolate givers. Not only that, they’re expected to gift candy (called giri-choco or “obligation chocolate”) to male colleagues and platonic friends in addition to romantic interests (honmei-choco or “true feeling chocolate”). However, in recent years women have begun to push back on the obligatory workplace gifts, with some companies banning the practice all together.
The second time is on March 14, dubbed White Day, upon which honmei-choco recipients are supposed to reciprocate. But not any old gift will do. They should return gifts that are sanbai gaeshi, or worth two to three times more than the honmei-choco. However, a new practice called gyaku choco has cropped up in which men give chocolates on Feb. 14 too.
In South Korea, there’s a (delicious) day for singles too
Photo by Stu Spivack (CC BY 2.0)
Like Japan, South Korea has both Valentine’s and White Days, but they have Black Day too. Every April 14 singles dress head to toe in black and gather together to eat eat jajangmyeon or noodles in black bean sauce. Sounds pretty good to us!
In the Philippines, you get a wedding and you get a wedding and you get a wedding!
Something that has become a custom in the Philippines are mass weddings on Valentine’s Day. Cities throughout the country fund receptions, flowers, and wedding cakes for newlyweds who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
China is also about summer lovin’
While Valentine’s Day is becoming more and more popular in China, the summertime Qixi Festival is still an important love day. It celebrates the mythical couple of the Cowherd and the Weaver Maiden, allowed to reunite only once a year — the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, or Aug. 25 in 2020. Separated by the Milky Way, a flock of crows and magpies forms a bridge to connect them.
Hot, single, and ready to shop
Like South Korea, China also has a special day for the unattached. Started in 1993 by students at Nanjing University, Singles Day was originally known as Bachelors’ Day or Guānggùn Jié. The holiday’s creators picked November 11, or 11/11, due to the date’s proliferation of ones as well as its resemblance to the literal translation of guanggun, “empty sticks.” Singles Day in 2011 (11/11/11) was proclaimed “Singles Day of the Century,” and ushered in with even bigger celebrations and huge sales on shopping sites like Alibaba. Since then it’s become the biggest online shopping day in the world.Love to learn more? Find out who your best match be according to the Chinese zodiac.