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Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009
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Korea rivals U.S. in romantic holidays

I think it was the day before Halloween last year. I was talking to my friend, Shannon, whom I met as a “conversation partner” at Global Connections.

Jieun Park Global Connections to

“So do you have a day like Halloween in your country?” Shannon asked.

“No, but we have a day called Pepero Day on Nov. 11, on which people give Pepero to each other just for fun.”

Pepero is a type of snack that looks like a pocky stick covered with chocolate. Supposedly, the fact that Arabic numerals of Nov. 11 look like four pocky sticks (11/11) motivated people to present Pepero to each other.

Much like Halloween was such an interesting new cultural experience to me, Shannon seemed to enjoy hearing about Korea’s Pepero Day. Comparing the two cultures was so interesting we started to think of more holidays. And I remembered learning about Valentine’s Day.

I moved to State College from South Korea when I was a high school junior. It was my first time living in America, so everything was new and sometimes confusing. The culture of Valentine’s Day and the way of celebrating it also confused me.

I was watching a soap opera — “The OC,” if I remember correctly — sometime around Valentine’s Day and there was a scene where a wife grumbled that it was supposed to be the most romantic day of the year. So, the husband

rushed out

seductive lingerie and jewelry for her.

Watching the episode, I was puzzled because the culture of Valentine’s Day was quite different from what I had known in Korea.

In my country, Valentine’s Day is a pair of days including White Day, on March 14. It is understood that on Valentine’s Day, gals give chocolate to guys while on White Day, guys give sugar candies to gals.

I remember, on Valentine’s Day, guys would secretly wait for a pretty box filled with chocolates from their girlfriends or some covert crush. The atmosphere of White Day is not much different from Valentine’s Day except the givers and receivers are reversed and chocolate is replaced by sugar candies. This was my previous concept of Valentine’s Day.

As weird as it might sound, Korea has a diversity of “days” throughout the year. There are, as already mentioned, Pepero Day, Valentine’s Day and White Day. In April, the month following the most romantic Valentine’s and White days, there is Black Day.

Black Day is for singles who failed to receive any chocolate or candies in the past two months. They are supposed to get themselves a bowl of Chinese noodles with black-colored sauce as a means of self-consolation.

Even after Black Day, there is Rose Day, Kiss Day, Hug Day ... the “day” train makes a stop on the 14th of every month throughout the year.

Of course, none are required to be celebrated or remembered. They are just for fun.

I often hear criticism that such days originated from commercial motives of companies to pull more money out of your pocket. I think the criticism is reasonable and partially true. But isn’t it still true that, regardless of the original motive, sharing all those chocolates, candies, hugs and kisses makes you and your loved ones feel, well, loved?

I came back to my home in Seoul a month ago from State College. And I suppose I will soon see tons of chocolates all over this town — given just by women to men. But I hope everyone reading this back in Centre County will have a romantic Valentine’s Day. And if you miss out this month, why not try White Day? Or, if all else fails, show yourself you care with a bowl of noodles on Black Day in April.

Jieun Park lived in State College for about two years. She is now back in Korea, studying international relations at Korea University in Seoul.


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