Roses are White, Violets are too!
The birds have finished chirping, the pillow fights are over, and all the chocolate has been eaten. Valentine's Day is officially over. But not in Japan! February 14th was just the beginning; White is just around the corner.
In The Land of the Rising Sun, Valentine's Day is celebrated almost exactly how we do it here in the states, but with a few slight differences. First, it has little to no romantic significance at all. And second, women do all the gift giving! Japanese women will buy bags and bags of chocolate gifts called "giri-choco" to give away to their male co-workers. Giri-choco means "courtesy chocolate," it is given to men as an obliged gesture of kindness which otherwise has no significant meaning of interest. Contrary to giri-choco, honmei-choco is reserved for that special someone.Honmei-choco means "Chocolate of Love.'' This unique gift is usually handmade or store bought and usually is accompanied by other gifts such as neck ties or wrist watches. But why do women go through all this trouble to give virtually meaningless gifts? They do it for one simple term, "sanbai gaeshi" or thrice the return. After receiving their gifts, men are expected to return the gesture with a gift 2 to 3 times more expensive. Enter White Day.
Held on March 14th, White Day began in the late 70's. The holiday was first dubbed as Marshmallow Day but shortly became known by its current name. The holiday is also recognized in Taiwan and South Korea. Originally founded by the National Confectionery Industry Association in response to Valentine's Day, the introduction of White Day turned the tides so that men could return the favor to the women who gave them gifts the month before.
Traditional giri-choco White Day gifts include marshmallows, cookies, and white chocolate. Darker chocolates have also gained popularity in recent years. More expensive honmei gifts like jewelry and white lingerie are given to women who are romantically linked to the gift giver. Consequently, mixed signals occur often because giri-choco gifts can be mistaken for honmei-choco gifts and vice-versa.
Some disapprove of the celebration as they consider it a commercial holiday only created to boost chocolate candy sales. Recently, an ironic holiday dubbed "Black Day" has been created and is celebrated on the 14th of April. Black Day has quickly gained popularity, as it is a time for singles who did not receive gifts for Valentine's or White Day to flock to bars, lounges, restaurants, and night clubs which gives them a chance to mingle and maybe meet someone special for the next year. The traditional food of Black Day is noodles with black bean sauce; a far cry from the heart shaped boxes of chocolates and romantic dinners at fancy restaurants that we're used to here in America.
Happy White Day!