What's the meaning of this event?
In Japan, St. Valentine's Day, February 14, is primarily a day for women to let men know their feelings for them. In addition, there is another day, called "White Day," (March 14th) for men to express their feelings to women, or to thank and to return gifts to women from whom they received Valentine's day gifts.
What's the history of this event?
This event, of course, originates in the West. A confectionery company in Japan attemped to introduce this event to Japan in 1936 and in 1952 as a means of selling chocolates, but it did not catch on very well. Later, in 1958, another company succeeded in making the event widespreaded across the whole country, and the event was changed into a Japanese one. Now approximately 60% of the chocolates sold in Japan per year are sold for St. Valentine's Day.
Are there objects associated with this event?
Several days before February 14, women go shopping to buy chocolates and usually also some gifts, such as neckties, wallets, sweaters and watches, which can be very expensive. Since Japan is a country where people have a strong sense of duty, in many cases, a woman must give chocolates to men other than her actual romantic interest(s) (honmei). This strange custom corresponds to Christmas-gift-exchange in the United States. Therefore this is supposed to be a gift to everybody whom you would like to thank for his usual help or kindness. However, this kind of chocolate is called Giri choko or giri-chokoreito (obligation chocolates), because it is a big burden for some women, such as female office workers, who have to give chocolates to their bosses and coworkers. This is also true among families, where brothers expect chocolates from their sisters, sons from their mothers and fathers from their daughters.
What do people do on this day?
On the day of or before St. Valentine's Day, many couples enjoy going out together. They go shopping, see movies, or dine at fancy restaurants.
St. Valentine's Day is no longer only for adults. Grade school boys as well as junior and senior high school boys look forward to receiving chocolates from girls whom they like very much. In addition, their mothers are very nervous on that day, worrying whether their boys are popular amoung girls and will receive some chocolates.
Date last modified: Tuesday, 05-Mar-2002 16:50:01 EST
Copyright 2002 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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