While the Western world welcomes another Valentine’s Day, it might appear that Asia barely notices, ticking along with business as usual. As is the way with many of the ‘Hallmark holidays’ though, Asia is catching on, and especially the more modern-thinking nations are embracing such occasions.
While the commercial decorations and social hysteria about February 14 reaches almost hysterical heights in the West, celebrations still remain on a slightly lower key in Asia, especially in China where the date falls at the same time as Chinese New Year celebrations. That said, it’s now quite common to see couples exchanging gifts in the ‘Westernized’ cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore, and ‘V-Day’ is a time that young men all over Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand attempt to woo their partner with presents and an evening out just like in the West…but Asia has also some alternative Eastern twists to the holiday of love.
In Japan for example, February 14 is a time for females to express their feelings for males, often in the form of chocolates. As one of the politest nations in the world though, it is common for women to give gifts to all their male co-workers, regardless of romantic intentions, simply to avoid being rude. Tactfully, the gifts are proportioned appropriately and specific quantities and quality signify their level of affection.
This tradition was said to have been started by a department store in the 1950s and was picked up by confectioners around Japan in an attempt to boost sales figures. The chocolates are also presented obviously rather than secretly as some people do in the West, removing the mysterious element of who the gift is from…which is helpful, as men are expected to reciprocate – but not until a month has passed.
While men in Japan are clearly the benefactors on February 14, Japanese women are given their own day to be presented with gifts on March 14. This day is known as ‘White Day’ or ‘Ai ni Kotaeru White Day’ (which literally translates to ‘Answer Love on White Day’), and men are expected to return chocolates (often white) worth at least double the value they received the previous month from a doting female. Not doing so, or even just returning a gift of equal value, is seen as a public snubbing, and even marks the desire to end the relationship!
Despite these traditions, February 14 is not actually seen as the most ‘romantic’ day in Japan however. As we briefly mentioned in our blog about Christmas, December 24 and 25 are seen as the important ‘date night’ times in Japan. This is the time that couples exchange gifts – common, you might think, around that time, but gift-giving at Christmas is rare in Asia even between family members.
South Korea has fully embraced the commercialism of love and not only ‘celebrate’ in the same way as Japan mentioned above, but on the 14th day of every month. Yes, every month. April brings possibly the most curious of the year as on the 14th day (known as Black Day) lonely single Koreans head to restaurants to eat jajangmyeon, a dish of black noodles to mourn for their lost love. Other days are less morbid and are fairly self-explanatory, with Rose Day, Kiss Day, Wine Day, Movie Day and Hug Day all on the calendar.
You don’t need a special day (or 12 like in South Korea) to fall head over heels with Asia though; we love it 365 days per year! There’s plenty to love about this exciting, enthralling region – if you’ve not been to visit yet, get in touch with one of our Travel Specialists and ignite your passion for the East!