White Valentine’s Day or White Day is celebrated one month after February 14’s Valentine’s Day—why?

White Valentine’s Day began in Japan in 1978, and to understand its origins, first, we need to talk about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently by the Japanese.

As opposed to an exchange of gifts, it’s a one-way street: it’s customary for the women to gift chocolates to their males in their life, and not just their partners, husbands, or boyfriends but even brothers, friends, co-workers, and bosses. These are called giri-choko, translated to 'obligation chocolates'.

In recent years, girls would gift tomo-choco (or 'friend chocolates/) to their platonic girlfriends too, and share it.

(Related: The Best Chocolate Gifts in Singapore for Your Loved Ones

Origins of White Valentine’s Day

In response to that, a small confectionary store named Ishimura Manseido in Japan whose speciality was candy and marshmallows came up with a day exactly a month after February 14, called White Valentine’s Day (or White Day) so that receivers of the giri-choko can reciprocate by returning the favour—and encouraged to do so with marshmallows, of course. In fact, they also called it Marshmallow Day.

In a country where giving gifts and okaeshi (which refers to gifts given as thanks for receiving gifts) are deeply embedded in the culture, it’s no surprise that White Valentine’s Day was a hit; and went nation-wide.

Today, this second Valentine’s Day has extended beyond Japan and has turned into a big-shopping event and celebration in South Korea, Taiwan and China.

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How is White Day celebrated now?

It’s said that the gift chosen by the gifter needs to be at least twice more valuable than the Valentine’s Day gift they’d received—be it in cost, sincerity, or both. In Japan, this has resulted in men in snaking queues at highly popular chocolate shops.

The colour of the gift is—as expected—white. While marshmallows and white chocolate are still popular, but white gold jewellery, white lingerie and white flowers have become common White Day gifts of late, a nice contrast to the popular pink and red heart motifs seen on Valentine’s Day.  

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White Day has evolved over the last decades too, as these holidays assign specific gender roles and assume heterosexuality; assumptions that were common then but questioned and considered archaic today.

Would you celebrate White Day?

The twist of White Valentine’s Day remains: It’s a well-meaning second chance for you to return the love, if you missed it in February. Whoever the giftee or gifter is, it’s a great reason to appreciate your partner—and we at Tatler, have lots of ideas for you.