White Day, What Is It?
12 March 2019
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated very differently than many other countries. Gifts are not exchanged between romantic individuals, instead, women present chocolate to a variety of men in their lives. There are two types of chocolates that are given. “Giri-choco”, or obligation chocolate, are purchased chocolates that are given to male friends, family members, coworkers, and bosses. “Honemei-choco” is the romantic chocolate, often homemade, that is given to a target of romantic interest, boyfriend, or husband. This is the format in which Valentine’s Day has been celebrated in Japan since the holiday made its way to the country.
Then, in 1977, on March 14th, a Fukuoka-based confectionery company, Ishimuramanseido, marketed Marshmallow treats for men to give to women, calling the event “Marshmallow Day”. The following year, the National Confectionery Industry Association, took hold of the event, calling it “White Day” and marketed white chocolates for men, stating that it was time for men to return the favour to the women who had gifted them chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Each year after, following Valentine’s Day, stores would produce white confections of all kinds, eventually branching out to include white, non-edible gifts, and treats of non-white varieties. The tradition eventually sailed beyond the island of Japan, to the likes of neighboring countries such as South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and China, where these countries celebrate in a similar fashion as their Japanese counterparts.
For many years, I celebrated on White Day INSTEAD of Valentine’s Day, gifting friends and family of all genders a variety of homemade treats on March 14th. Some of my favourites to make were sugar cookies that would be shaped like bows and frosted in white frosting (check out Yukiru Sugisaki’s DNAngel to understand why I made white bows), and chocolate truffles filled with a variety of flavours. But it wasn’t really until I began dating my now husband back in 2013 that I had the chance to start celebrating Valentine’s Day and White Day in the way that it is celebrated in Japan. Since then, each year I do something for my husband on Valentine’s Day, and he does something for me on White Day. Our gifts have ranged from treats and bobbles similar to the Japanese practice, to forgoing the material all together for opportunities and experiences. Really, it doesn’t matter what it is, we just always try to do something for each other on our respective days.
There are several reasons that my husband and I chose to carry on the Valentine’s Day/White Day tradition back when we first entered into our relationship. For one, we are both huge otaku, and love Japanese experiences and traditions. Two, Valentine’s Day has always been an overly stressful experience, or just an entirely non-applicable experience in our past relationships, so we wanted to remove those associations, and celebrate things differently. Three, I personally love the idea of celebrating over a period of time, where gestures are reciprocated, and each partner has an opportunity to do something for the other. It seems too often Valentine’s Day comes out a bit one sided, or like a rushed endeavor. By designating different days to different people, it gives us both an opportunity to express our affections to the other person, without rushing the process. And it gives each of us an opportunity to really appreciate the efforts the other person has gone through.
Have you ever heard of White Day before? If yes, do you celebrate it? If no, would you celebrate it? Let me know if this is a tradition you can get behind in the comments below, you can reply to this message.