Valentine’s Day in Asia

by Amy Betz | Staff Writer

When Valentine’s Day comes this Wednesday, couples all across America will celebrate the holiday by giving each other gifts of flowers and candy, going on dates, and expressing their love for one another. People throughout the rest of the world celebrate Valentine’s Day as well, but their traditions regarding the holiday are different from America’s in several ways. Baofang Zhang from China and Sua Aha Chun from South Korea shared how people in their home countries celebrate this holiday of love.

In China, Valentine’s Day is celebrated commercially, very similar to how it is in the United States. “Shopping malls have sales to attract people,” Zhang explained. “Lovers like to watch movies and have romantic dinners like Westerners do.” However, Chinese people also celebrate the traditional Qi Xi Festival, or Tanbata Festival, which originates from the time of the Han Dynasty. This festival, also called the Double Seventh Festival because of its occurrence on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, is said to celebrate the yearly meeting of two star-crossed lovers. Zhang explained the story behind the unique holiday:

“Long, long ago, there was an honest and kind-hearted fellow named Niu Lang the Cowhand. His parents died when he was a child. Later he was driven out of his home by his sister-in-law. So he lived by himself, herding cattle and farming. One day, a fairy from heaven, who [was the] daughter of God and called Zhi Nu the Weaver Maid, fell in love with him, came down secretly to earth, and married him. The cowhand farmed in the field and the Weaver Maid wove at home. They lived a happy life and gave birth to a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, the God of Heaven soon found out the fact [that they were married] and ordered the Queen of Western Heavens to bring the Weaver Maid back. With the help of celestial cattle, the Cowhand flew to heaven with his son and daughter. At the time when he was about to catch up with his wife, the Queen Mother took off one of her gold hairpins and made a stroke. One billowy river appeared in front of the Cowhand. The Cowhand and Weaver Maid were separated on the two banks forever and could only feel their tears. Their loyalty to their love touched the magpies, so tens of thousands of magpies came to build a bridge for the Cowhand and Weaver Maid to meet each other. The Queen was eventually moved and allowed them to meet each year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. They became two stars in the sky, called Altair and Vega.”

On the seventh day of the seventh month, when the lovers’ meeting is said to take place, Chinese girls watch the sky and pray that they will be granted the Weaver Maid’s cleverness as well as her happiness in love and marriage.

In Korea, Valentine’s Day is accompanied by a second holiday, albeit one that’s less traditional. Valentine’s Day traditions in Korea are similar to those in America; stores sell special gifts and candy for lovers to give to each other and, according to Chun,  “every generation exchanges chocolate with each other and expresses love.” However, as Chun explained, “There’s a little difference here. Valentine’s Day in Korea is the day that women give chocolate to men. Then, what about the day that men present to women? That day is called ‘White Day.’” On March 14, Korean men reciprocate the gifts that the women in their lives gave to them the month before.

In fact, the Valentine’s celebrations don’t fully conclude until two months afterward! “Last but not least, in Korea, April 14 is celebrated one month after White Day. This is an unofficial holiday called ‘Black Day’. It’s a day for singles who have not exchanged anything on both Valentine’s Day and White Day,” Chun said. In this “sad but funny little holiday,” people who didn’t get to participate in Valentine’s or White Day enjoy themselves, typically by eating jajangmyeon, or noodles with black sauce. Regardless of their relationship status, everyone gets a special holiday to indulge in delicious food.

As we celebrate holidays at PC, it’s important to learn about all the different cultures that our international students bring to this campus. Have a happy Valentine’s Day — or, if not, indulge in some noodles two months from today. You deserve it.