Whatever country you hail from, your calendar is surely peppered with a few special days of celebration. Some of them may be major religious holidays, like Eid, Christmas, Passover or Diwali, while others celebrate events of national or international importance, like Labor Day, New Year’s Day, or thanksgiving and independence days. But there’s always a few smaller holidays that maybe don’t mean a day off from work or school, but still hold meaning. Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Arbor Day are good examples of days that are still important even when people don’t get a day off to celebrate. That’s right – there’s a day to celebrate love, friendship or snack food every single month of the year!
February 14 was originally called St. Valentine’s Day to honor several different early Christian martyrs, all named Valentine. Over the centuries, however, it grew to be a day for people to celebrate friendship, love and romance, and it grew into an important time for couples around the world to show their love for each other. In many countries worldwide, people exchange gifts, with flowers and chocolate being the most popular.
Koreans also celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14, but instead of couples exchanging gifts, on Korean Valentine’s Day women give presents to their boyfriends or husbands. Chocolate is an especially popular gift, and it’s almost impossible to get a reservation at a romantic restaurant because there are so many couples. Forget about trying to pick up a seat at your favorite little Italian restaurant, that charming French bistro, or that up-and-coming gastro pub. Everything will have been booked solid for weeks.
But don’t think that you’ll be safe in March, because on the 14th it’s the guy’s turn to reciprocate. Called “White Day,” the boys all go buy candy and gifts for their sweethearts, and book up every nice restaurant in town. You might be able to stroll into your local kimchi jjigae restaurant or pick up some pig’s feet, but anyplace more romantic than a fast food joint is going to be crowded with lovebirds enjoying round two of romance. Every restaurant has specials to draw them in, and everybody from high-end department stores to local convenience stores is hawking candy and flowers.
If you’re not currently coupled, April has a day just for you: Black Day. Whether you’re miserable with your single status, mourning a lost love, or perfectly happy to be independent and on your own, all the people who sat out Valentine’s Day and White Day are supposed to wear black and eat jjajang myeon, or noodles in black bean sauce. The idea is that singles can spot each other and find someone to share the rest of the year with.
We’re not done yet! May 14 is Yellow Day, for eating curry. Or maybe it’s Rose Day. In June, couples rub it in again with Kiss Day on the 14th. July 14 brings Silver Day, while August 14 is the boozy Green Day, when people wear green to go to a forest and drink soju from bright green bottles. Snap a photo of yourself on September 14 for Photo Day, and sip something good on the 14th of October for Wine Day. Be sure and head to the cinema for Movie Day on November 14 before warming up the depths of winter with Hug Day on December 14. Finally, lest the new year be forgotten, January 14 is Diary Day. You’re going to need a diary if you want to keep track of all those holidays!
But wait, there’s more! Although adherence is spotty for everything but Valentine’s and White Day, a few other minor celebrations also deserve mention. 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. School kids across the country rejoice on November 11, better known as Pepero Day, which celebrates a favorite snack of long, thin biscuits dipped in chocolate because people think they look like the date 11/11 when lined up. Because the “sam” in the Korean grilled pork dish samgyeopsal means “three,” some people celebrate March 3 by going out for a meaty dinner. There’s also rumors 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.