Valentine’s Day in the U.S., S. Korea Differences in our chocolate-giving customs

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The United States, famous for its Christian heritage, started celebrating Valentine’s Day probably as early as the 1700s. The holiday gets its name from the early Christian saint Valentinus. Although not much is known about the actual person, his name became associated with love in the Middle Ages, when loving greeting cards called valentines became popular for expressing one’s affections. Presently, this holiday has turned into a celebration of love, not only towards one’s significant other or crush(es), but also towards friends, as young children are encouraged to participate as well! In South Korea, however, there isn’t much information about when the country began celebrating Valentine’s Day, but it is theorized that it, similarly to how it began in Japan, was started by chocolate companies around the 1960s as a mainly commercial holiday.

Giving chocolate

Korean men are lucky; Valentine’s Day is especially focused on them! Much like the holiday in Japan, women make and buy chocolate to give to men, sometimes out of obligation. But don’t fret! March 14, known as White Day, is when women can expect to receive their reciprocated chocolates. Valentine’s Day recently has slowly become less focused on love and has slowly branched out to include one’s friends and family. However, if one did not receive chocolates from an admirer on either of these days, there’s at least one more holiday to look forward to: Black Day, celebrated on April 14. This singles holiday is usually “celebrated” by wearing black, eating jajangmyeon (a black-bean noodle dish), and complaining about single life with other singles. It seems like the United States consolidates all of these dates in one simple Valentine’s Day, as everyone is free to give chocolates to whomever they desire and mope about it if they don’t!

htm_2016021015393716926.jpg.tn_350Types of candy

In America, as long as it’s red or pink and heart-shaped, it’s good for exchanging! Heart-shaped chalk-like candy known as Sweet Hearts are hugely popular for their random love sayings. There are plenty of gummy candies, lollipops, cookies, and even heart pizzas with heart pepperonis available for this day of love. On the other hand, Korea focuses more on chocolate. It’s said that some confectionery stores account for nearly 20% of their annual sales from February 14 alone, and many do-it-yourself melting kits are available in grocery stores and convenience stores, to maximize the customization of one’s heartfelt chocolates.

By Nicole Destura