recess radio program

4/14/04
Korean Valentines
    by Cathlena Martin

Two months ago on February 14, Americans celebrated Valentine's Day. Some people feel that this is a ridiculous holiday promoted largely by the greeting card, flower, and candy industries, while others cherish it as a day of love and caring. But both opinions are forgotten by the end of February when the hearts and candy disappear. However in Korea, the tradition of a day of love happens not once a year, but every month on the 14th.

The Korean Valentine's Day is similar to ours in theme, but limited in scope - only Korean girls give chocolates to Korean boys. Girls are returning the favor in memory of a traditional folk character - a poor girl who was in love with a wealthy boy. The boy loved the poor girl, but was forced to part with her because of a parental mandate. Before he left, though, he gave her chocolates, her favorite treat. Today, girls in Korea return the kind gesture of love by giving chocolates to the boys they like. However, while boys don't have to do anything in February, their turn comes in March.

March 14th in Korea is White Day. On White Day, Korean guys give candy or chocolates to Korean girls. Waiting one month to reciprocate a gift takes the pressure off the boys because they have usually figured out exactly who likes them and gave them a gift in February. While it is not required that you give a return gift, that is usually the accepted thing to do. However, guys are not limited only to the people who gave them chocolate. They may give sweets to any girl they fancy. If you received chocolate or candy in either February or March, you take the following month off to plan gifts for the rest of the year. But if you weren't a recipient in February or March, then April becomes a month of singles celebration.

April 14th in Korea is called Black Day. The girls and boys who did not receive chocolate or candy in February and March all come together for a meal of black noodles, noodles with black bean sauce, usually served in Chinese restaurants. This may sound depressing and heart wrenching to Americans, but a Korean middle-school student of mine says that the group usually has a great time together at dinner. It is not a pity party, but a time to come together with other singles.

These series of holidays don't end on the 14th of April. Each month after April resorts back to gifts for lovers and friends on the 14th and are labeled according to the appropriate gift: Ring, Flower, Sock, Money, Music, Kiss, Rose, Yellow, and Silver Day. Exact gifts and holiday names may vary depending on where you are in Korean. So, if you were feeling down about Valentine's Day, you just might find good company tonite with the other singles at the nearest Chinese restaurant serving black noodles.

Copyright 2004 Cathlena Martin

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