There is very little new I can add to what is in the general domain, but I found an interesting page on the BBC Religious Website –
“Saint Valentine’s day is 14th February.
The celebrations of St. Valentine’s Day are steeped in legend and mystery; indeed the motives behind the day’s creation and even St. Valentine himself have been shrouded in controversy and doubt.
Saint Valentine’s Day embraces a time of year that is historically associated with love and fertility. It encompasses the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera in Ancient Athens and the Ancient Roman festival of Lupercus, the god of fertility.
The priests of Lupercus would perform a traditional purification ritual, slaughtering goats to the god, and after consuming wine, they would run through the streets of Rome holding aloft the skins of the goats touching anyone they met. The occasion compelled floods of young women to the streets in the belief that being touched would improve their chances of conceiving and bring forth easy childbirth. There remains some speculation over the exact date of the celebration.
The first official Saint Valentine’s Day was declared on 14th of February by Pope Galasius in 496, in memory of a 3rd century martyred priest in Rome. It is not known for sure whether Pope Galasius was honouring this 3rd century priest or whether it was one of two other martyred priests associated with the 14th of February. One was Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) and the other apparently suffered in Africa along with a number of companions. Nothing further is known about these two Saint Valentines and it is the priest in Rome that has become the most widely acclaimed of the three.
Claudius II ©
It is believed that the young priest rose to distinction after betraying Emperor Claudius in 270 AD by conducting illegitimate wedding ceremonies in the capital. Emperor Claudius claimed that married men made poor soldiers and consequently decreed that all marriages of younger citizens would be outlawed. Bishop Valentine, however, maintained that marriage was part of God’s plan and purpose for the world. He continued to conduct marriages in secret between young people, sometimes as young as twelve, in the name of love.
His success gained him unwelcome notoriety, which became Bishop Valentine’s downfall. He was jailed and ultimately beheaded, but not before he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. It is thought that on the evening of his execution the bishop passed her a note which read “from your Valentine”. This story has blossomed into the defining tradition of Valentine’s Day. An estimated one billion cards sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas.
A typical Victorian Valentine’s Day card ©
Valentine’s Day has spawned celebrations of love beyond western culture. In Japan and Korea, Valentine’s has become almost an obligation for women to give chocolates, known as giri-choco, to all of their co-workers. A reciprocal day on 14th of March known as White Day has emerged in recent times whereby men are supposed to thank those who remembered them on Valentine’s Day with white chocolate or marshmallows, hence white day. In Korea there is an additional Black Day, held the following month on the 14th of April, for less fortunate men who did not receive gifts on Valentine’s Day to gather together to eat Jajangmyun, Chinese style black noodles topped with a black sauce.”
End of Article.
So, on February 14th in the East, it is the men who get the chocolate. So very different to our romantic gestures here in the West. ‘Giri-choco’ – meaning ‘courtesy chocolate’- is given away by women to their male co-workers as an obligatory gesture of kindness with no romantic interest implied. However, contrary to giri-choco, ‘honmei-choco‘ – meaning ‘Chocolate of Love’ – is reserved for that special someone.
photo from www.drexeliuschocolates.com
This is usually a unique gift, handmade or store bought, and often accompanied by other gifts such as neck ties or wrist watches.
But why do women go to all this trouble and expense? 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. Valentine’s Day is just the beginning of the Celebrations in the East; White Day is just around the corner, a month later!!
White Day originated in the late 1970’s and is said to have been instigated by the National Confectionery Industry Association in response to Valentine’s Day so that men could return the favor to the women who gave them gifts the month before. Initially known as Marshmallow Day it later changed to its current name.
photo from www.asianfoodgrocer.com
As on Valentine’s Day, both giri-choco and honmei-choco gifts are given on White Day.
Of course this all benefits the consumer industry and a rather nice ironic touch has been developed in Korea by the instigation of a holiday on April 14th called “Black Day” as mentioned above. ‘Black Day’ has quickly gained popularity, as it is an occasion for single people who did not receive gifts for Valentine’s or White Day to dress in dark colours, and together with friends, to commiserate on the single state by flocking to bars, lounges, restaurants, and night clubs, and eat dark food such as the noodles and black bean sauce. This mingling may even produce a meeting with someone special with whom to exchange gifts next Valentine’s and White Days.
Personally I think this is all a splendid idea, despite the commercial proliferation. Let’s have all the celebration we can. This household is about to begin White Day and Black Day, unknown to the other occupant;)
In fact, it would appear that in Korea at least, every 14th of the month has become an excuse for buying something and having a celebration.
With love celebrations falling on the 14th of every month, plus anniversaries and important milestones (i.e. 100 days since a couple has met), South Korea has perfected the commercialized of romantic relationships in a way that would make even North American marketers envious.
It all starts with Diary Day, January 14, where lovers present each other diaries with all the important aforementioned dates circled in red. With the plethora of dates to observe throughout the year, it’s probably the most practical of the love holidays!
So, after the Diary Day, Valentine’s Day, White Day and Black Day, we have:
May 14th Rose Day: As the atmosphere between the couple is supposedly good, it will be a day where couples give each other roses, as a sign of a developing relationship.
June 14th Kiss Day: In the event that things have been working out great between a couple up to now, a first kiss will be in order on this day. Perhaps a very slow developing relationship? Apparently, this is ALSO the day in the year when couples sit down and talk about everybody they’ve ever been with or kissed. Sounds a bit problematical to me!
July 14 Silver Day: Now that things are moving on, this is the day where the lover is introduced for the first time to one’s seniors, including those at school, the work place, as well as the parents. The seniors will have to present the lovers with money, or silver and the couple may also exchange gifts made of silver.
August 14th Green Day: Summer days are hot so our lovers will seek out cool places to meet, and go for a romantic walk in the forests. Singles will drink hard liquor with a Green theme – soju -to cheer up/drown their sorrows.
September 14 Photo and Music Day: Now, it’s probably time to introduce your lover to your mates so time for a party, crank the music up and take those embarassing photographs.
October 14thWine Day: After all these months, today is the day to get serious and sit down to talk about whether you two were meant for each other. So, choose a nice restaurant, have lovely wine and plan for the future.
November 14 Movie and Orange Day: With things firmly on track, time to make sure that your tastes match, so go to the movies and eat whatever you like but make sure to have some orange juice as a healthy extra:) Also, drinking the slightly sour orange juice is supposed to be a reminder to couples of the ‘sour’ times they promise to share together in the days ahead.
December 14 Hug Day: Winter is here and things are cold, so keep the relationship and your body temperature up to scratch, remember to have a hug today.
And for those businesses who have lost out so far this year there are even more!!
March 3 Because the “sam” in the Korean grilled pork dish samgyeopsal means “three,” some people celebrate by going out for a meaty dinner.
October 24 is Apple Day, and since the Korean word for “apple” is the same as “apology,” people often use the day to say they’re sorry to anyone they’ve hurt.
November 11th is Pepero Day, when school kids across the country celebrate a favorite snack of long, thin biscuits dipped in chocolate because people think they look like the date 11/11 when lined up.
There are also rumours of an “Ace Day” to chomp on Ace Crackers on October 31, an attempt to replace the chocolately crunch of Pepero Day with the chewy, traditional plain rice cakes for Garetteok Day, and many more.
Well, I bet you wanted to know all that! I am all celebrated out and there is no room for the European differences, perhaps another year.