South Korea doesn’t escape the consumerism-driven holiday that Americans celebrate on Feb. 14; however, where American men have traditionally found themselves roped into the frantic harry of purchasing Valentine’s gifts for their wives and girlfriends, the days leading up to the same holiday in Korea look a little different.
It’s another Valentine’s Day in South Korea. Chocolatiers enjoy the greatest profits they’ll have all year as women line up to buy chocolates and truffles for their valentine. While many men in America check their watches and refuse to look at each other while standing in a row at the supermarket, equipped with a pink card and bouquets of roses, Korean men are taking it easy and spending it like any other day. Women seek out cute, decorated chocolates, the designated gifts for the occasion.
The concept was developed with the idea of surprising the person someone loved. Chocolates were given as a token of their affections to confess their love. Just as the market has evolved in America to include more than just a romantic interest, the tradition has changed in Korea as well. Nowadays, women still scurry to scoop up the cocoa confections, yet the recipients range from a crush or a spouse to a coworker or male family member. This has cheapened the quality of the gift, but its meaning has evolved to bear the token of goodwill.
Women get their compensation in the following month on White Day, which is on March 14. White Day is the reverse occasion; it gives chocolate companies a break. Instead of chocolates, men seek candies like Chupa Chups lollipops. Men are ostentatious with their gifts, favoring candy gift baskets over the commonly gifted three- or five-pack of Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolate truffles.
Many Americans and Koreans share a common loath and cynicism in the form of grumbled comments, inward reassurances that being single is better and online rants about how sorry we all feel for those miserable couples who have to put up with relationship drama—It’s just the candy and card companies trying to scam money from everyone anyway!
Instead of leaving it at that, Koreans take it one step further and turn it into another holiday on April 14, called Black Day. Single people who didn’t receive gifts on Valentines Day or White Day go out to eat jjajjangmyun, long chewy noodles in a black bean sauce, and drink soju, Korean rice liquor. Many people love jjajjangmyun, so this alternative may sound pretty appealing. Then again, chocolates don’t sound too bad either.
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