Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly called Valentine’s Day, celebrates the love and affection between people every February 14th. On this day, people express their love and affection for each other with greeting cards, confectionery, or flowers. Originally, the day is named after two Christian martyrs, both named Valentine: Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Even though there were no romantic elements associated with these martyrs in the early years, they became linked to romance because of Geoffrey Chaucer. In the fourteenth century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished, he romanticized this particular date and linked it to the emotion of love. Since then, many people around the world have celebrated February 14th, though the manner of expression differs by culture. As Valentine’s Day approaches, many of my friends at school have started to prepare bringing to light several noticeable differences in how it is celebrated between Korea and the US.
First, the objective of celebration is different. I was surprised to see many of my classmates purchasing candy kits and card kits from the local store which are designed for classroom distribution. In the US, people give greeting cards and sweets to many of their family members, close friends, teachers and classmates to express their affection and appreciation. Some schools, particularly elementary schools, suggest their students bring enough valentines to distribute to everyone; nobody is left out. In contrast, Valentine’s Day is celebrated only by young couples in Korea. Rather than sharing valentines with close friends and classmates, this holiday is especially designated for lovers as a day to declare one’s love for another. The shops in Korea sell fancy and expensive chocolate truffles individually designed just for one’s significant other. It would be difficult to find a box kit in Korea.
Second, unlike in the US where both men and women express their love and affection, in Korea, only women prepare gifts on this day. All of my American friends, guys and girls, exchange greeting cards and chocolates with each other. When I was back in Korea, however, only the girls prepared presents with cards and treated their boyfriends to dinner.
Although it may seem unfair that in Korea only the women prepare for Valentine’s Day, there is another day prepared solely by men. This particular day is called White day. White day is celebrated on March 14th and it is an opportunity for the men in relationships to return the love and affection. White Day was first celebrated in 1978 in Japan and later spread to Korea. The National Confectionery Industry Association of Japan created this day as an “answer day”, believing that a man should respond to a woman’s declarations of love. It received its name because men had to give white candies or white chocolates in return for what they received on February 14th.
Even though some people criticize both Valentine’s Day and White Day as holidays created for commercial reasons, I consider these romantic holidays valuable. On Valentine’s Day, we have an opportunity to rekindle the sprit of love and affection for others that we often take for granted. It is good to have a public day marked on our calendar, when we can take the time to express our thanks and love to those around us. No matter where we are in this world, Valentine’s Day reminds us to show affection to the people whom we truly love. Why not have these kinds of day once a month rather than once a year?