In western culture, we all know about the tradition of Valentine's Day gift giving: flowers and chocolates to your sweetie, silly cards and candies to your friends. We are accustomed to seeing large pink and red heart displays hit retail floors as soon as they take down the Christmas decorations. Have you ever received a gift unexpectedly on Valentine's Day without one to give in return? Enter the Japanese "reply" holiday, White Day.
White Day was created around 1980 when confectioners in Japan saw an opportunity to create a "reply" holiday to Valentine's Day. White day, initially named "Ai ni Kotaeru White Day" (Answer Love on White Day), occurs one month after Valentine's Day, March 14th. Since women were traditionally expected to give gifts on Valentine's day, retailers decided that creating White Day would give men the opportunity to return the favor one month later. This not only affords retailers another sales opportunity, it also provides men a gentle reminder about the upcoming holiday.
Valentine's Day in Japan is a day for females to give the men in their lives gifts as an expression of their love, courtesy, or out of obligation. There are three levels of gifts given. Giri choko is chocolate given to men that a woman might have regular contact with; co-workers, superiors, teachers, etc. It is not uncommon for a woman to buy many boxes of this type of chocolate for distribution to the different men in her life. Honmei choko is given to the man that a woman is serious about. Handmade chocolate gifts are usually preferred by this recipient since they express thought, care, sincerity, and emotion. Along with the honmei choko, a woman will often purchase another thoughtful gift such as a necktie or other fashionable accessory. Tomo choko, a more recent development, is given to a woman's female friends and is usually chosen based on what the woman herself would enjoy.
White Day is the day for men to return the favor and give gifts to the women in their lives. Generally, if a male received a gift on Valentine's Day they are expected to return the favor. The term sanbai gaeshi (meaning "triple the return") is used to describe the rule for the return gift: the value of the gift should be three times the cost of the Valentine's Day gift. If the man does not give a gift in return, it is perceived that he is placing himself in a position of superiority. If the man returns a gift of equal value it is considered a way to say that you are cutting the relationship. Originally, only chocolates were given but now, popular gifts are lingerie, jewelry, accessories, and clothing that are wrapped in white packaging.
So, if you happened to miss Valentine's Day you can make it up to your loved one by celebrating White Day!