Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy White Day!

So I was more or less zoned out during February and completely forgot to mention anything about Korean Valentine's Day. Luckily today though Korea celebrates what basically amounts to Valentine's Day Part II so I'll just cover it all now.

How it works here is that on February 14th, Valentine's Day, women give chocolate to men and then on March 14th, White Day, men return the favor by presenting women with candy. I was grocery shopping on Valentine's Day and there was a big display in the middle of the store with bins of chocolate and such (I was tempted to treat myself to some Hershey Kisses but they are super overpriced here). The local bakeries had decorations up but aside from that I didn't really see too much of the holiday, probably because I just worked that day. I asked my kids in class if people were giving out chocolate for Valentine's Day at school but was careful not to put them on the spot since even when you're an elementary kid that stuff can be touchy. One of the boys said, "None of the girls gave us chocolate so we will not give them any candy" but they're fourth graders so really they didn't care much either way.

Today I wished my students a happy White Day and some of them said they'd brought in treats for their friends. Then when I walked into my second class one of my students, who is usually a little punk, was like, "Here teacher, catch" and threw a candy at me. He had enough for the other kids too but they were all so surprised that when he threw them they thought he was throwing the candy at them and kept dodging out of the way. One of the girls was all, "When did you become so nice?". I think he was trying to pretend like it was no big deal but seemed pretty pleased with himself.

White Day originated in Japan but at some point became something that Koreans celebrate too. Actually as Grandma Wikipedia tells it, every month in Korea there is a love-related holiday celebrated on the 14th:

January: Candle Day
February: Valentine's Day
March: White Day
April: Black Day
May: Rose Day
June: Kiss Day
July: Silver Day
August: Green Day
September: Music Day
October: Wine Day
November: Movie Day
December: Hug Day

I'm not sure to what extent all those other random love ones are celebrated but after Valentine's and White Day, Black Day is probably the only one really worth further mention. Black Day is basically a Korean Singles Awareness Day. Following right after Valentine's and White Day, Black Day is a time for single folks to get together and eat jjajangmyeon, which is noodles with black bean sauce, and commiserate/celebrate being single. I like to think that it's more of a celebration because a bunch of people sitting around being depressed and eating black sauced noodles sounds miserable.

I like to think of Valentine's Day as a time to celebrate the people you love, whether it be friends or family or a significant other. Korea really pushes the whole "couple" thing though so I can appreciate why they would have an actual holiday here for those who aren't part of one. A lot of the couples here are extremely cutesy, it's sort of just the nature of things. They often say "I love you" very early on and you can find all sorts of "couples" items from matching rings to underwear and pajamas. I'm kicking myself that I don't have any pictures of the couple outfits in action (often matching sweatshirts or t-shirts) but I'll be on the lookout.

Trivia of the Day:  Seoul, the capital and largest city of South Korea, has been known in the past by the successive names Wiryeseong (위례성, Baekje era), Namgyeong (남경, Goryeo era), Hanseong (한성, Joseon era) or Hanyang (한양). During the period of Japanese colonial rule, Seoul was called Keijō (in Japanese) or Gyeongseong (경성) (in Korean) . Its current name is Seoul, and this name has been in use since at least 1882, at times concurrently with other names. Seoul originated from the Korean word “seo'ul” meaning "capital city". An etymological hypothesis presumes that the origin of the native word “seo'ul” derives from the native name Seorabeol (서라벌), which originally referred to Gyeongju, the capital of Silla, then called Geumseong (금성). Also believed to be the origin of the name Seoul is "Se-ultari," which literally means "new walls" or "new castle." Seoul was a walled castle city from its construction in the early 15th century until most parts of the walls were destroyed during the Korean War.

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