Two Major Love Days: Part 1—Valentine’s Day

For better or for worse, Valentine’s Day has passed, leaving some with beautiful memories, some with new relationships, and some with cross sighs. I hope yours was one of the better ones! Whether you love it or hate, celebrate it or shun it, Valentine’s Day remains a popular day to celebrate love and romance. If that’s not your thing, you may be glad to have it behind you. However, if you can’t get enough with one love day, there’s more ahead, like White Day! The number of love days that exist around the world is staggering. I’d like to take a look into two of the biggest, starting with that flood of chocolate, greeting cards, and anxiety, Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day History

The origin story for Valentine’s Day is somewhat muddled. Some link it to the Roman Lupercalia festival falling on February 15 (probably of the Julian calendar), which did include a form of matchmaking where women placed their names in a jar for men to draw their match.1 However, before the love lottery, the festival also called for the men to whip the women with strips of sacrificed goat and dog hide to increase their fertility. 2  Another theory states that February was associated with birds beginning to pair.3 Cupid hitched a ride into the holiday from Roman mythology, which had borrowed a babyish version of the once feared Eros of the Greek pantheon.4 The ancient fear is toned down now, but if you’ve ever seen Cupid shown as mischievous, you’ve found an echo of it.

The full name of the holiday is Saint Valentine’s Day, after a man of that name who was executed on February 14th. The thing is, there were several. Up to eight Valentines were listed as martyred with the two most notable dying in the third century under the rule of Roman Emperor Claudius II.5 One of these is said to have fallen in love with his jailer’s blind daughter, restoring her sight and leaving her a note “From your Valentine.” His crime? Supposedly Claudius had banned marriage in Rome to increase enlistment in the army, and Valentine opposed by continuing to perform marriage rights.6 Honestly, though, it seems like it would have been simpler and more typical just to conscript.

Roughly five centuries ago, the Valentine’s Day we know began to take shape. The first handmade Valentine’s Day cards circulated in sixteenth century Europe as famous wordsmiths like Shakespeare and Chaucer championed the holiday.7 Gifts and poetry became part of the game, though generally only for the wealthy until the 18th century.8 Hallmark, not surprisingly, helped drive the commercialization of Valentine’s Day first in the U.S. and then onwards.

These days, Valentine’s Day is a major industry. Cards, flowers, candies, and other gifts galore appear in season, not to mention there’s plenty of media about it. Books for young and old on the subject abound, and of course Hallmark has a number of sweet films on its channel. Some of these drive fantasies of what the perfect Valentine’s Day should look like, though the awkwardness of trying to achieve that may be used as comedy.

white black and red person carrying heart illustration in brown envelope
Cards don’t have to be fancy to have meaning. Photo by on

My first introduction to Valentine’s Day troubles came from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schultz. Charlie Brown never catches a break with that holiday. Successfully delivering a card to his yearned-for little red-haired girl eludes him, nor get one in return. Meanwhile his dog Snoopy receives a mound from female names ranging from “Peggy” and “Margaret” to “Zelma” and “Chiyo.”9 Peanuts does contain a happier story in which Peppermint Patty decides she is “in love” with Pig Pen after a blind date to a Valentine’s disco,10 but even that is touched with frustration later on. Even so, I find these very human struggles a refreshing addition to Valentine’s media.

Valentine’s Variants

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, but the celebrations don’t always work the same way. Recent variations have sprung up, sparked as the glitz and fun of commercialized Valentine’s Day interacted with different values. Here’s a sampling that provide a slightly different approach to the whole love day thing.

Friend’s Day/ Ystävänpäivä

The “love” typically hyped around Valentine’s Day is romantic, but there are many other types of love that bind people together. Around 1987, Finland adapted Valentine’s Day into Friendship Day, which emphasizes non-romantic relationships.11 The name is different, but the date is the same and many of the same traditions apply, such as exchanging cards and gifts. Roses and chocolate are still in the picture, but there’s also a dish called “Kalakukko,” with a whole fish surrounded by pork fat and baked in a rye loaf.12 The holiday doesn’t have much media exposure, though the third season of Konttori, a Finish reboot of The Office, even has an episode titled “Ystävänpäivä.”

Why did Finland decide to focus on friendship? Santiago’s article suggests it comes from Finish culture being much less touchy-feely than those in neighboring European nations.13 I doubt that’s the whole reason, since people in the United States aren’t generally keen on kisses or hugs as greetings from anyone but very close friends or romantic partners either. Mexico also treats February 14th as Día del Amor y la Amistad, a day of love and friendship,14 so perhaps it’s just a move to make sure singles don’t feel left out of the fun. Then again, perhaps they just like friends! So if next year you’re not feeling into the romance of Valentine’s Day, maybe you can take a cue from the Finish and celebrate your friendships instead.

backlit dawn foggy friendship
Photo by Helena Lopes on

Galentine’s Day

In a case of life imitating art, Valentine’s Day now has a special day before it, all about female friendship. In the Parks and Recreation episode “Galentine’s Day,” ever upbeat Leslie introduces the audience to a day of “Ladies celebrating ladies” that she celebrates every February 13th.15 This includes going out with gal-friends for a big treat-filled breakfast and gift bags for all gathered. Sounds sweet, right? But don’t mistake it for passing fluff. Something in this made-up holiday struck a cord and it didn’t take long before people began celebrating Galentine’s Day in the real world as well. Though it treats with waffles and beer more than chocolate and flowers, Galentine’s has become “thoroughly Hallmarked” in the consumer culture of the U.S.16 Soon it may not even be considered minor, as it continues to spread across the world!

Though it’s likely that Galentine’s Day was created as a joke that somehow took off like wildfire, I find the date pleasingly symbolic. You may recall I mentioned that the number 13 is associated with Venus, making it a perfect day to celebrate women. Apparently, February 13th has also been called “Mistress Day” in the past.17 Knowing that just makes it all the more powerful to have the day reclaimed and reshaped in a way that brings women into solidarity rather than division.

two smiling women sitting on wooden bench
Photo by ELEVATE on

Valentine’s Day/White Day/Black Day

South Korea celebrates Valentine’s Day, but with a slight twist. Valentine’s traditions tend to emphasize men giving gifts and cards to women, though there is some expectation of return gifts and cards. However, in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, Valentine’s Day is when women give chocolate to the men they love.18 A month later, on White Day (openly acknowledged to be a creation of the candy industry),19 men are expected to give gifts back. These are usually three times more expensive than the gift received and often white.20

red portable stove
This image does not necessarily contain black bean sauce. Photo by Markus Winkler on

The 14th of every month is a love day in South Korea, though Valentine’s and White Day are among the most visible in media. In one scene of the K-drama Abyss, former high school-queen Se-yeon shakes her head when she realizes her then less popular friend Min still believes she gave him a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day because she had received too many. Valentine’s is “when girls give boys chocolate,”21 she reminds him.

If you’re not in a relationship or just don’t enjoy Valentine’s Day, the next Korean love day might appeal to you. April 14th is designated Black Day, when singles gather to eat jjajyangmyeon or “black noodles” and “commiserate over their loneliness.”22 Of course, casting it in that light only contributes to the pressure to form romantic relationships that can reach unhealthy levels on Valentine’s Day. So if you’re single and happy, this might be a great day to practice some self-love with a bowl of noodles in black bean sauce!

I’m splitting this piece in half because it was stretching to gigantic proportions together. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Valentine’s and its spin-offs, as well as any other love days you might know! Tune in soon for the second half on the Qīxī Festival!


  1. Lewis, George H., “Western Origins of Valentine’s Day,” World & I 10, no. 2 (Feb. 1995): 252. MasterFILE Premier.
  2. Seipel, Arnie, “The Dark Origins of Valentines’ Day,”, Feb. 13, 2011, accessed Feb. 14, 2020,
  3. Lewis.
  4. Greenspan, Rachel E., “Cherubic Cupid Is Everywhere on Valentine’s Day. Here’s Why That Famous Embodiment of Desire Is a Child,” Time, Feb. 13, 2019, accessed Feb. 21, 2020,
  5. Robbins, Peggy, “This Day Might Inflame,” World & I 9 no. 2 (Feb. 1994): 252. MasterFILE Premier.
  6. “St. Valentine Beheaded,”, last modified Feb. 11, 2020, accessed Feb. 14, 2020,
  7. Seipel.
  8. Lewis.
  9. Schulz, Charles M., Who was That Dog I Saw You With, Charlie Brown? Greenwhich: Fawcett Publications, 1968.
  10. Schulz, Charles M., It’s Chow Time, Snoopy New York: Fawcett Crest, 1980.
  11. Santiago, “Valentine’s Day in Finland is All About Friendship,” Big in Finland, Feb. 13, 2014, accessed Feb. 20, 2020,
  12. Anttila, Ana, “Valentine’s Day: US vs. Finland,” Finntimes, Feb. 13, 2012, accessed Feb. 20, 2020,
  13. Santiago.
  14. Goldberg, Carey, “Happy ‘Friendship Day’ — And Maybe That’s a Good Thing,” CommonHealth, Feb. 14, 2012, accessed Feb. 20, 2020,
  15. “Galentine’s Day,” Parks and Recreation, episode 16, season 2, directed by Ken Kwapis, written by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, Los Angeles: CBS, Feb. 11, 2020.
  16. Garber, Megan, “Galentine’s Day: How a Beloved Fiction Became a Beloved Tradition,” The Atlantic, Feb. 13, 2017, accessed Feb. 20, 2020,
  17. Garber.
  18. “Valentine’s Day vs. White Day,” Diffen, last modified Feb. 13, 2020, accessed Feb. 21, 2020,
  19. “Valentine’s Day vs.”
  20. Pickering, Brendan, “Valentine’s Day in Korea,” Asia Society, accessed Feb. 21, 2020,
  21. Abyss, episode 10, directed by Je-Won Yoo, written by Soo-yeon Moon, Studio Dragon, Jun. 4, 2019.
  22. Cha, Frances, “In South Korea, Valentine’s Day is All About the Men,” CNN Travel, Feb. 14, 2013, accessed Feb. 21, 2020,

13 thoughts on “Two Major Love Days: Part 1—Valentine’s Day

  1. Wel that was a fun read! I thought/believed that Valentine did originate from Saint Valentine. I kinda liked the story about falling in love with a blind girl and giving her back her view. I read it as someone who is able to open ones heart too love (again) and thus is able ‘to see’ again. And it makes sense to me that he would write ‘from your Valentine’.

    I like the idea friendship day but not to that extend that Hallmark cards need to be created! You can have a lot of ‘friends’ on Facebook and send them a card. But to celebrate real friendships seems a good idea to me. We like our friends but maybe don’t express enough how much we value them. No need for presents on ‘a specific’ day but I think I would like to express my appreciation more to my friends. So thank you very much for reading my posts and I always enjoy reading your comments! I appreciate you very much, my WP-blogging-friend 🙂

    I’ve heard about ‘singles’ day and I guess it’s too boost up the sales, no? When people in a relationship can buy extra things, why leave the singles out then? I don’t see a problem in having a day to ‘celebrate’ your happy single being but in my opinion it’s not necessary to buy things. We have already so much buying to do, like Black Friday, the Holidays, Easter, Valentine, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Secretary day, the day of the Nurses, Women’s Day the list goes on and on! I don’t have a problem with that but I’m happy we can chose to participate or not. What I also liked in your post is to learn that woman give presents to men. I believe we need to celebrate men a little more as they are sometimes left out. I’m an advocate for fun presents for men because socks and ties can be really boring gifts after a while!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, a lot of these holidays get encouraged because they mean more purchases. Seems like that’s the solution to everything from marketing. 😅

      That’s a good point about cards for Friendship Day. Most people have multiple friends at various levels of relationship, so which ones get a card and which ones don’t? It’s a lot more complicated to figure out than romantic relationships. If you’re giving more than one person Valentine’s Day cards, it’s either to express a different kind of love or something else is going on. 😉

      Thanks so much for reading! I always look forward to reading your thoughtful comments. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t really celebrate it much either. It’s mostly just an excuse to eat some chocolate. 😁 That’s why I wanted to look at some of the alternatives out there. I only found out about Galentine’s Day recently, but I’m thinking next year I’ll spend it with my mom a bit like Leslie does in the show!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting! A really good read. I never really care much for celebrating Valentine’s Day. I rather celebrate my love everyday with simple details than to create a big show off.

    Liked by 3 people

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