February 14th is Valentine's Day in many countries. Most cultures celebrate with customs of gift-giving and symbols of love, either romantic, platonic, or familial. It's no surprise to me that Valentine's Day is very popular in Korea. At least, it's popular among the younger generations. Mostly high school students, actually. High school girls. They're the demographic behind Korea's obsession with all things cutesy and chocolaty.
The tradition nowadays is for girls to give gifts (chocolate, usually) to their boyfriends on February 14th. Do the boys give gifts, too? They're apparently not obligated to this time. But come March 14th, it's "White Day", the time for boys to reciprocate their romantic feelings and buy their girlfriends candy... or other, perhaps more expensive, gifts.
It doesn't stop there. May 14th is Rose Day, for couples to give each other roses. July 14th is Silver Day, for couples to give each other silver rings and other jewelry. October 14th is Wine Day. Thanks to rampant consumerism, Korea now has a "Special Day" on the fourteenth of every month. And they're not just for couples. April 14th is Black Day, a day for singles to eat black soybean-paste noodles (jjajangmyeon, which I personally find delicious) and commiserate over their singleness.
(For a detailed explanation of all twelve Special Days -- plus one that doesn't fall on a fourteenth -- click here!)
I think all of this is hilarious, but also a little bit too heteronormative for my taste. Also, I've never celebrated Valentine's Day myself, and although I am totally for doing cute things for your loved ones, I don't think very highly of building an entire industry out of it. Case in point, the United States. I'm glad I missed out on the pink and red hearts adorning every store display at the mall. At least the tacky decorations aren't as ubiquitous here in Seoul. Or maybe it's just because I'm avoiding the most popular shopping districts. Anyway, it's the epitome of Korea-cute to have all of these Special Days for couples, and Valentine's is the king of them all. So what am I doing tonight?
Well, February 14th happens to be my friend Kristen's birthday, so my apartmentmates and I are going out to celebrate with dinner and then go to Acoustic Holic, which I haven't written about yet but will soon because it's aaaawwweeesome. I'm excited to be going again tonight. And I'll buy myself my own chocolate (tomorrow, when it's all on sale), thank you very much.