Originally published on February 14, 2011.
Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day steeped in history and tradition. A day festooned with jewelry, chocolates and flowers. And don’t forget the mushy cards. A day when perfectly sane women will gush and swoon over a stuffed animal. A day forever associated with the disease of love. A day where men the world over, except in Japan – which I’ll get to in a bit, need heart medication and bourbon to squelch the feeling of doom that they’ve, somehow, screwed the pooch.
Yes, this is a glorious day in which we celebrate the Lupercalia. What? You have no clue what a Lupercalia is? Well, if you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, then you’re celebrating the ancient Roman feast in honor of a heathen god. Well, “heathen” might be a bit harsh, let’s go with “nontraditional.” On these occasions, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by men as chance directed. Truly a lottery worth winning. Buy a ticket, win a virgin!
Nevertheless, the pastors of the early Christian Church endeavoured to do away with the pagan element in these feasts by substituting the names of saints for those of maidens. Since the Lupercalia began near the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the celebration of this new feast. Because nothing says “LOVE” like a dead, defiant, monk. Anyway, the custom of young men choosing maidens for valentines arose in this way.
Now you know.
Even though it’s been proven that, with the right life partner, it really doesn’t matter what you give, this is a holiday of ramped up expectations.
A day that was set aside to celebrate love and fertility has somehow become an excuse to shell out $36,000 on a Fendi 24-Carat Gold Python Bag. And you can’t forget the $60,000 Vacheron Constantin Quai de L’Ile watch that goes so nicely with it.
We all know about the Western traditions for Valentine’s Day. At least the basics. Show up clean, bring something nice, pay for an expensive dinner, shut up and pretend you enjoy the chick flick. Get it right and get a prize. Get it wrong and it’s monkey spanking time.
So let’s take a gander at the Eastern variant. T. Ramune, an American woman who worked in Japan, wrote a wonderfully succinct blog about it all, so I’ll share that with the class.
Valentine, Valentine, Valentine’s Day in Japan!! Did you already prepare for your special loved one on Valentine’s? Valentine’s in Japan is a little bit different than in the US. It is mega marketing in Japan. On Feb 14, consumers purchase 25% of the total annual chocolate sales in Japan.
As a young lady, I used to work for a Japanese company in Tokyo and on February 14 I would carry tons of chocolate to the office, running to each floor and giving chocolate to my boss and my male co-workers. Yes, this is the day for men in Japan, not for us women. This is called “Giri Chocolate”. The word Giri means obligation in Japanese and we jokingly use this term to indicate that giving the chocolate is something that is expected.
We of course buy chocolate for our special loved one too. This will be more expensive and very special chocolate. Japanese department stores prepare two kinds of chocolate gifts; one for Giri-chocolate and another for Honmei-Chocolate (only for a serious love). Obviously, Japanese women spend more money for Honmei-chocolate. Limited chocolate from Europe by air can cost about $200 US.
Men, if you receive chocolate from Japanese woman which cost less than $3.00, I’m sorry, that is likely Giri-chocolate and she is not so serious about you, but she meant to say thank you. (However, my husband loves this chocolate, he claims Japanese chocolate is not so sweet and has a real cocoa taste.)
For school girls, this is a more serious tradition. This is the day to tell their Honmei-person (person they have a crush on) that they like them, to confess her feelings to him with Honmei-chocolate. On Feb 14, a school boy will know how popular he is in school. Some boys carry bags of chocolate back home while unfortunate school boys go home with none. This is heaven and hell for all school boys in Japan.
To balance the gift giving, another holiday called White Day is celebrated on March, 14th. On White Day, men return the favor to women who purchased chocolate on Valentine’s Day for them. Gifts from the men can be chocolate too, but sometimes lingerie may be given. In Japan, a man may even give lingerie to a female co-worker on this day. This is not really a serious invitation, it’s just for fun. On one White Day I received two gifts of lingerie from bosses of mine. The new Christian Dior slip and panties were most appreciated. I was happy to receive them but it wasn’t personal as most women in the department received similar gifts.
In Japanese culture this exchange of gifts on Valentine’s Day and White Day smoothes relationships between coworkers and friends, giving us an entertaining break from our busy and stressful jobs.
Wanna be my Honmei Homie?
I do, however, wonder if we could spruce up company morale by handing out lingerie to the female staff members here at Nude Hippo. I know it would do wonders for the men in the office.
But that does bring us, albeit clumsily, to March 14th. Not to be outdone by the Japanese White Day, which actually does sound like fun, a God fearing, red blooded, American male came up with the perfect counterpoint to Valentine’s Day. And, like its Japanese equivalent, it’s celebrated on March 14th.
Naturally, I’m talking about (name altered to be more family friendly) farm fresh meat and fellatio day. This is a much less stressful holiday for women. All they have to do is show up naked and bring beer. I’ll cook the steak.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Friday morning around 9:10!