Here in America, couples have it pretty simple. Valentine’s Day: check. Yearly anniversaries: check. Significant other's birthday: check. And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Three dates to remember and only three times a year a man or woman can really screw up a relationship.
Back where I came from, relationships could be much more difficult. In Korea, there are “unofficial” love-related holidays on the 14th of every month, each with a different theme. All these holidays (which don’t even include other couple holidays such as Pepero Day and Married Couples’ Day) can complicate dating if you’re not an avid fan of schedules and organizing.
We’ll start the year off with May 14th, which is either Yellow Day or Rose Day. For the couples out there, this day is your Rose Day, which entails giving a rose to your significant other. On the other hand, for Yellow Day, all the determined single ladies and gentlemen will dress up in yellow and eat yellow curry (Thai-styled), which (supposedly) helps single people avoid staying single for the next year. I personally know of a few committed enthusiasts (mostly women in their late 20’s, early 30’s) who live this day to the fullest in the hopes of never having to celebrate it again. I will never forget the countless single participants ferociously eating spicy curry, sweat and tears trickling down their faces as they stared intently at their bowls. Perhaps they’re searching for the faces of their future lovers. I never really understood, and I probably never will.
July 14th is Silver Day, where you show off your lover to someone. Shine their shoes and fix their ties, because it’s going to be an all-day competition to see who has the best lover of all! Grooming is recommended, and a résumé explaining why your significant other is an effective, capable lover is practically required. I have heard of horrible, excruciating break-ups occurring after a particularly bad incident or two during Silver Day when the interviewees were just not that impressed. I would just shake my head as they explained that their hair hadn’t been especially straight that night or how they mistakenly dissed SHINee (a male K-Pop group) although his lovers’ friends were all ShaWols (SHINee fans). For these reasons, Silver Day can feel like a rigorous, non-stop day of interviewing or a beauty pageant for dogs. If you ever had to be on your game for an entire day, this day would be it. Or for the less boastful types, you could just present a silver item to your lover.
Green Day, August 14th, is probably the most exciting day for singles and the most confusing to understand. It’s a crazy day when single people literally curse couples and single people of the same name and get together to drink Soju, a popular alcoholic drink in green-colored bottles. It’s a stress-relieving day – or maybe just another excuse to get drunk with your single friends. If I’m in a shady neighborhood on this day, I try to be wary of my environment and push away any female companions who approach me (for their sakes as much as for mine, I swear). I would suggest couples in Korea on this day tone it down a little to save themselves from drunk hassling and potential threats from the crazy, single, inebriated people. So skip the couple t-shirts for a day, take off that ring you had been shining and under no circumstances smile, make eye contact or risk even any physical contact with your lover in the presence of Green Day partiers.
September 14th is Photo Day, customarily celebrated by couples introducing each other and taking pictures. In modern terms, it is solely dedicated to updating and flooding Facebook pages with annoying pictures of couples holding hands, hugging, kissing, making V-sign poses, standing in front of something somewhat important then topping things off with a mushy caption. It’s probably one of my least favorite days of all because I just personally hate reading corny captions declaring eternal love to one another and pictures that would make your grandma hurl. A fun thing to do this day though is to utilize Facebook’s nifty timeline to go back one year for friends who had broken up and look through their lovey-dovey pictures for that day. Maybe I’m just evil but I sincerely hope I’m not the only one who would have fun with that sort of stuff.
I didn’t want to end on such a low note but we have come to a full circle. April 14th, or Black Day, is a holiday for all the male and female singles who are left out of the chocolate-giving traditions of the Sadie-Hawkins-style Red Day (February 14th) and the reciprocal White Day (March 14th). Presumably the same fuming Soju-drinkers leftover from Green Day get together to eat Jajangmyeon, wheat noodles covered by a black soybean paste. It’s considered the saddest day and a mourning period for those poor souls without lovers. Sadly, I will be the first one to admit that I have personally celebrated this day on several occasions. Most poignant of all would be my sophomore year of high school when I went to eat Jajangmyeon with two of my other single comrades who had been unsuccessful. All the money and time I had invested in several girls months before Red Day had gone to waste. As tears trickled down our faces onto our plates (metaphorically), we slowly took one bite at a time while watching couples walk past the store.
A lot of these holidays that are uniquely celebrated in Korea and not in America have to do with cultural differences, particularly in regards to food and drinks. I just don’t know if Americans would find the same amount of joy (or catharsis) from these holidays or reach the same level of ridiculousness. For a lot of these holidays, important aspects of the themes are integral parts of Korean culture that an average American might not be able to appreciate to the same extent. I have come to find (though I may totally be off here) that American couples tend not to be as intense as Korean ones with all their ridiculous couple items.
I, however, would be delighted if Americans proved me wrong. My dream (if I may be allowed to dream outrageously) is to one day see Northwestern students of all ethnicities and backgrounds partaking in these weird traditions (except Green Day). What a joyous sight it would be to see groups of frat boys eating black noodles in an intimate huddle or Kellogg students being interviewed off in all their splendor and swagger during Silver Day. So if you decide to join in on the movement, drink responsibly (if you’re of age) and love even more responsibly because you probably don’t want to be eating Jajangmyeon (though it’s actually really good) alone two months from now.