The Romantic Korean Pt. 1
I was recently writing up an article for Groove Magazine on the unofficial couple’s holidays of Korea and it got me thinking about how romantic my husband, who is Korean, is not. (You can check out the article in January.) To preface this, let me explain how many couples related “holidays” there are and how to celebrate them:
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While this celebration may be more common among the younger couples much like young western couples count days and then weeks instead of years, it’s still a fairly common thing for people into their 20s as well. Couples celebrate their first 100 days by exchanging gifts, often the male expected to spend exorbitantly, and couples rings may be swapped.
Reversing the western trend of family togetherness over Christmas and couple love on New Years, Christmas is all about the couple in Korea. Restaurants around the city get a transformation and tables for two are set up and special menus just for the duo are available. If you’re a western group of friends looking to go out in style but celebrating together, head to some expat friendly areas or you’ll be shunned down the street as restaurants just don’t want to push their tables together for your “orphaned family” Christmas holiday.
November 11: Pepero Day
Pepero Day come from another ultra savvy campaign to get people to show their “affection” for each other. Originally, the day was an opportunity to exchange these skinny chocolate covered sticks saying, “I hope you become taller and thinner.” Afterall, who doesn’t want to inadvertently tell friends and loved ones they’re short and fat? When I first came to Korea, people told me this was a holiday for singles to get the sweetums because they’re shaped like ones (November 11 aka 11/11) so obviously it’s for that solo guy and gal, but these days couples have swooped in and want the chocolate loving too though my husband still swears it’s for the singles and I shouldn’t want to receive any Pepero.
Next up, the 12 days of couple love: When Valentine’s Day came to Korea in the 1980s, who knew it would have such an effect on couples as to start a 14th unofficial couples holiday extravaganza.
Each month, there is now some sort of event to show you’re either in love with someone or you’re a lone wolf without a companion.
January 14th: Diary Day
Because isn’t there always someone that can’t remember the all important first anniversary of the day that you first kissed or the anniversary of the day that you first wore matching clothes? On Diary Day, couples swap cutesy yearly planners/diaries that they purchased at one of the numerous stationary stores around town. Inside, they’ve marked birthdays, anniversaries and other special days so that no one ends up on the receiving end of a “…so you mean to tell me you didn’t remember that today was the anniversary of the first time that we ever ate spaghetti together?” line of questioning. Okay, maybe couples here aren’t that specific, but you know some are.
February 14th: Valentine’s Day
The day from which all others came. It’s basically the same as Valentine’s around the world, except that in Korea, only the women are expected to hand over gifts of chocolate and other romantic paraphernalia. Guys can sit back and relax as they are showered with affection. If couples are smart and cost-weary though, they might wait a couple days, stock up on all of the “for sale” chocolate and then celebrate instead.
March 14th: White Day
While February was all about the guys, now it’s time for the girls to be on the receiving end. Rather than chocolate though, guys stock up on candy, jewelry and flowers to show how much they love their partner and to make that big gesture.
April 14th: Black Day
Come spring, the flowers are blooming the skies are blue and the breezes are warming up but the single guy has just gone through three months of couples this and couples that and candy and chocolate sales from here to the moon. On Black Day, the single guy and gal, possibly dressing up from head to toe in black attire, will head down to the local Chinese restaurant to grab a meal of jjajangmyeon, or black noodles. Single friends get together to console each other or rejoice in their independence depending on how glass half full or half empty they are.
May 14th: Yellow Day/ Rose Day
This holiday is for everyone. Couples dress up in their cutest, probably matching, yellow attire from head to toe, meet up and swap roses because dressing in matchy matchy clothing isn’t enough to make the day special. Their single counterparts once again head to a nearby restaurant to mourn, or rejoice, by eating yellow curry hoping that it may somehow “spice up” their life. Apparently, if you’re single the only activity appropriate is eating…
June 14th: Kiss Day
While this holiday is said to have originally been for the couple to get together and make out, now singles are taking it over and suggesting hey, can’t we all just kiss each other? Some people now purport that you should kiss everyone you meet that day, if in the single state of mind. Breath mint and gum companies, lipstick companies and any other lip centered brand has promotions to get those smackers in the perfectly kissable state for either the couple or the solo traveler.
July 14th: Silver Day
If you’ve got a special someone, then today is the day that you swap silver accessories most likely of the couple ring sort. No, this doesn’t mean you get engaged. Korean couples like to proclaim their love while dating by wearing a ring and why the hell not? They’re probably not holding hands in public or hugging, so at least that ring tells all of those other interested folks to walk away. For the single guy or gal, why not take this day to treat yourself. While this may not be common, I’m all about treating myself and I’m here to tell you, it’s awesome. Head on over to that silver shop and buy a ring, a bracelet, some earrings, cuff links, whatever catches your fancy. You deserve it for putting up with all of these couples holidays.
August 14th: Green Day
Another holiday for all to enjoy in their own special way. Couples meet up and head to a nice green natural outdoor location, relax and enjoy each other’s company. Singles go a completely different route and grab that ubiquitous green soju bottle that is never very far from one’s reach. The single gal pals and guys meet up, get plastered and pat themselves on the back for making Green Day all about themselves and I’m sure the soju companies aren’t hating this take on the “holiday”.
September 14th: Photo Day
As if couples, singles and everyone in between aren’t already taking enough selfies, now we’ve got a day all about them. Couples find their local photo booth, put on wigs and other accessories and get some pictures together or go legit and head to an actual photo studio to get some professional shots done so that they can share these lovey-dovey photos on all of their social media outlets. Again, solo travelers, don’t be afraid to jump on in there: take your cat or dog to the local photo booth, or just head in there in your best Halloween costume and have some fun with it. Photo Day may be about the couples, but can’t we all just have fun?
October 14th: Wine Day
The wine companies wanted to get in on the action and geared toward the age appropriate couples, now they have a day too. Drink wine… enough said.
November 14th: Movie Day
Another obvious one. If you don’t want to awkwardly sit in a movie theater with tons of couples, don’t go to the movies on November 14th. If you think it’d be funny to buy an odd number of seats sporadically throughout the theater though so that couples can’t sit together easily, then have at it. Theaters and Movie Rooms will be pretty packed on this day.
December 14th: Hug Day
Having run out of ideas, December 14th has become known as Hug Day when you should wrap your arms around that special someone to keep them warm and the chills away. If you’re single, head to Myeongdong because there’s always someone with a “Free Hugs” sign there and you can get in on the action too.
These are the 12 unofficial couples holidays and a few more because Koreans in the couple state of mind just love to have something to look forward to each month. Which day would you look forward to the most?