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Valentine’s Day: the day women receive nothing and men are given chocolate

Exploring how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan, South Korea and China.

We all know how Valentine’s Day works. It involves copious amounts of chocolates, flowers, perfume, jewellery and a romantic dinner reservation crammed in to seal the deal. Retailers embrace this joyous festival as it’s the next big commercial event since the Christmas period. Couples act all cutesy and it’s a great time for single people to find a date.

But did you know in some countries it’s only the women that present men with gifts on the 14th of February? And ‘Black Day’ is a day that actually exists for those who did not receive anything so they can celebrate being depressed together (harsh).

Valentine's Day Chocolates in Korea
Photo credit: Time Out Tokyo

Valentine’s Day in Japan

Yep that’s right, Japan is one of the countries where the women shower men with gifts on Valentine’s Day and are even happy to do so without anything in return. There’s a solid tradition that involves gifting chocolates to men and they come in two varieties:


‘Giri’ translates to obligation in Japanese and the Giri-choco is the chocolate typically given to male friends, collages and family members. There is no romance involved and they are often bought from one of the many department stores partaking in the festival. It’s minimum effort from the girls’ part but they still taste good so who really cares that it’s pity chocolate.


This type of chocolate is given to a boyfriend, lover or husband with the sentiment of true love. Most Japanese females will prepare these chocolates themselves to prove that their love is real. Again stores will supply a range of cooking utensils and cookbooks in perfecting timing with the celebration.

Just as you start to think it’s unfair that the women have to go through all this trouble without any reward then “White Day” comes along.

White Day takes place on the 14th of March exactly one month after Valentine’s Day. This is the day when men are supposed to reciprocate if they have the same feelings towards the female who presented them chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Popular present choices are white chocolates, sweets and flowers.

Japan Valentine's Day
Photo credit: Marie Muravski

Valentine’s Day in South Korea

In South Korea Valentine’s Day and White Day are pretty much celebrated in the same way as in Japan. However, in South Korea they also have ‘Black day’ and it is just as melancholic as it sounds.

This is a day dedicated to lonely ones who didn’t receive any gifts on Valentine’s Day or White Day. One month later, on the 14th of April all the depressed singletons get together and eat black noodles known as Jjajyangmyeon, whether they bring themselves to actually do this is another thing. In a society where not having a partner is largely considered embarrassing, Black Day is a time of mild mourning, as you can imagine.

Black Day Noodles after Valentine's Day

It doesn’t just stop after black day though. We could say that the Koreans are slightly love daft as love is celebrated on the 14th of every month!

Love holidays in South Korea

Jan 14th: Diary Day/Candle Day – blank diaries or candles are exchanged.
Feb 14th: Valentine’s Day – women gift chocolate to men.
Mar 14th: White Day – men return gifts to women.
April 14th: Black Day – singles eat black noodles.
May 14th: Yellow Day/Rose Day – couples dress in yellow and gift roses.
June 14th: Kiss Day – a day dedicated to kiss your other half (or someone new).
July 14th: Silver Day – silver rings are exchanged and talk on marriage can be proposed.
Aug 14th: Green Day – a day designated to drinking soju with loved ones.
Sept 14th: Photo Day/Music Day – a day to enjoy photos and music together.
Oct 14th: Wine Day – couples enjoy a glass (or bottle) of wine.
Nov 14th: Movie Day – date night takes over cinemas all over South Korea.
Dec 14th: Hug Day –  they must have ran out of special days to dedicate so it all ends with a hug.

Valentine’s Day in China

Valentine’s Day is celebrated a little differently in China, it falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar, this year it will be celebrated on the 28th of August 2017. The day can also be referred to as “Qi Xi” which translates to ‘The Night of Sevens”. Gifts are exchanged between males and females as a gesture of love and affection.

Valentine’s Day in China is associated with a traditional magical love story. The legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu has been retold though out many generations.

Niu Lang and Zhi Nu Chinese legend
Photo credit:

Language Tips: How to Say Valentine’s Day in Chinese

情人节 (Valentine’s Day): qíng-rén-jié or ching-rnn-jyeh
情人节快乐 (Happy Valentine’s Day): qíng-rén-jié kuài-lè or ching-rnn-jyeh kwhy-ler

Now you are fully prepared to take on a Valentine’s Day experience in Japan, South Korea or China. Woohoo!