Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and many are preparing to celebrate love with that special someone. Among other things, chocolates, flowers, and gifts are some of the gestures used to show love, and many businesses selling these items enjoy brisk sales in the lead-up to Valentine's Day.
However, the celebration of love in Asia is unique, as February 14 is interpreted differently here. In the Western world, Valentine's Day sees couples exchange gifts and plan a special date, while the Japanese have placed the onus of gift-giving on the women on this day. The idea of gift-giving has been divided into two categories: gifts for platonic male friends and gifts for loved ones. The former receive more affordable chocolates, known as giri choco(obligation chocolate), while a love interest will receive expensive, well-packaged chocolates or a gift, usually handmade, known as honmei choco(true feelings chocolate). The woman's gesture is then reciprocated a month later, on March 14, on a day known as White Day, where the men then present the ladies with gifts, chocolates, and flowers.
Korea embraces the same celebrations as Japan, but with the addition of a day called Black Day on April 14. The idea behind this day is for those who are single to celebrate their status with fellow singles. Usually decked out in black or other dark colours, single Koreans head out together for a meal of black bean noodles. The colour is supposed to reflect the sadness and misery of being single and not receiving any gifts on Valentine's Day or White Day. These days have been heavily marketed by companies in Japan and Korea, and many use this opportunity to leverage their businesses, especially restaurants and department stores.
In the Philippines, Valentine's Day is celebrated with pomp, just like in many other countries in the world, but Filipinos go the extra mile by holding mass weddings on this day to make the date significant in their lives. The mass weddings are designed for newlyweds and couples who are already married and have an interest in renewing their vows. Dressed in suits and wedding gowns, couples gather in halls to embark on a life together. To capitalise on this special day, marketing agencies, malls, and other organisations attempt to break world records, such as the most couples getting married at the same time, or the most people kissing.
China takes the celebration of love to the next level compared to the rest of Asia, as several days are allocated for couples to express their love for each other. While Valentine's Day is popularly celebrated in the country, the Chinese also celebrate love on a day known as the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Traditionally, young maidens would toss oranges into the river to symbolise their readiness to find a spouse. Today, this tradition has taken on a modern twist, as names, contact numbers, and even Facebook URLs are written on the oranges before they are tossed into the river!
The Chinese also celebrate love on May 20, which sounds similar to the phrase “I love you” in Chinese. Many couples choose to get married on this day, making it a hectic day for the government office that issues marriage certificates. In addition to these two days, the Chinese also celebrate love on Qixi Festival, which is on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. The festival tells the story of a romantic legend of star-crossed lovers, the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. Couples partake in traditional rites and rituals to honour the day, with many now also modernising the celebrations with gifts and romantic dates.
While the concept of love may be universal, the celebration of love differs across Asia as shaped by culture and traditions. The ongoing pandemic may put a dampener on the way love is being celebrated, and especially on large-scale celebrations, but it has not stopped the revelry entirely. If anything, celebrations with loved ones on these special days, although more low key than in previous years, have become that much more meaningful.
JapanChinaPhilippinesKoreaValentine's DayValentine's Day AsiaCelebrating loveCelebration of love in Asia