Propelled by an obsession of anything romantic or cute and encouraged by savvy marketers, a large number of Koreans observe at least twelve unofficial couple-based holidays a year. While these are considered ‘off the calendar,’ the 14th of every month is being recognized by more and more people as a way to celebrate love (or mourn the lack thereof).
January 14th: Diary Day / Candle Day
Blank diaries are given as gifts among couples and friends. Anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions are recorded into the brand new journals. South Korea is full of stationery shops that specialize in quirky notebooks and agendas, often covered with Konglish phrases. One of my students gave me a diary with the words Yo! Miss Syringe on the front.
Some also celebrate this day as Candle Day and give and receive decorative candles.
February 14th: Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in South Korea much like it is in the West, except for one main difference: Only the women give gifts; men are off the hook in February.
March 14th: White Day
This is when the women reap what they sowed on Valentine’s Day. Some follow the custom that the man should give a gift approximately three times the worth of what he received a month prior. Many gifts — roses, chocolate, candy — are often given in the color white.
April 14th: Black Day
For single people. It’s a rather depressing day where singles eat a sticky, black-bean paste noodle dish called jjajangmyun and wish they had a love interest.
In a country where not having a partner is considered embarrassing by many, Black Day is a time of mild mourning. Some, however, have turned the occasion into a celebration of independence, getting together with other singletons and toasting freedom with a heaping bowl of noodles. Of course, most still secretly hope they’ll meet another sad, noodle-eating single and be a couple in time for next month’s holiday.
May 14th: Yellow Day / Rose Day
On Yellow Day, couples dress in yellow and give each other roses. Singles that didn’t have their fill of lonely-heart noodles on Black Day have the chance to fill up on yellow curry and hope their love life will “spice up.”
June 14th: Kiss Day
The name says it all. This is also a good day to confess your feelings to a crush and start a new relationship with a smooch. Many companies, ranging from lipstick brands to breath mint makers, do their best to capitalize, offering special promotions.
July 14th: Silver Day
Couples exchange silver rings and discuss future plans of marriage. Acting as promise rings, the gifts are often given before or after in-person parental introductions.
August 14th: Green Day
This is a day designated for drinking soju — a harsh alcohol traditionally made from rice, tasting similar to vodka — and then taking a romantic walk in the woods. Most likely the brain child of a drunk teenager who wanted to be alone with his girlfriend, Green Day is centered around the fact that soju comes in a green bottle.
September 14th: Photo Day / Music Day
Most days in Korea are photo and music days, but the 14th of September is when it becomes “official” (or as official as an off-the-calendar holiday can get).
Portrait studios and gimmick photo booths are popular, and it seems like everyone’s taking a reverse-facing camera shot. Noraebangs — singing (karaoke) rooms — are in high demand, as well.
October 14th: Wine Day
Couples drink a glass (or bottle) of wine over a romantic dinner. Singles drink away their sorrows.
November 14th: Movie Day
Movie theaters are jam-packed on this day, but couples also rent movies, give each other DVD gifts, or go to a DVD room (the “DVD Bang,” or movie room, is a popular Korean hangout on any day). They’re rented for approximately the price of one cinema ticket and can hold a small group of people. The DVDs are somewhat older than what’s playing in the theater, but not by much.
December 14th: Hug Day
Running short on reasons to dedicate a special day, Hug Day wraps up the year with a firm and gentle squeeze and a sigh of relief. Couples spend the day hugging each other, while polls on which Korean celebrity is most cuddle-worthy give the singles something to fantasize about.