White Day: What is it and how is it different from Valentine’s Day?

2 Feb 2022

Events Valentines

We’re all familiar with Valentine’s Day, but what’s the story behind Japan’s White Day?

In the West, Valentine’s Day is a widely celebrated event (and synonymous with romantic chocolate gifts). Travel to East Asia, however, and you’ll find that White Day also takes centre stage on the calendar.

On March 14th each year, people in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan enjoy another designated day of love-fueled gift-giving: White Day. Though Valentine’s Day is still celebrated in these countries, White Day was created with a very particular purpose in mind…

Gifts in white paper with ribbon and pink flower decoration

What is White Day?

When you think of Valentine’s Day, what comes to mind? Probably red roses, adoring cards, beautiful bouquets of flowers, indulgent chocolates and grand declarations of love. Plus, if you’re based in the UK, then you’re likely to see Valentine’s as a mutual gift-giving event for both parties in a relationship. Here, anyone can surprise their loved one with a token of their adoration and it’s common for couples to exchange gifts. However, things are a little different elsewhere in the world.

In some East Asian countries, Valentine’s Day is more one-sided. It’s generally seen as a day for women to give romantic gifts to men or smaller tokens of appreciation to their bosses, colleagues, and even male family members.

As you may be thinking, this leaves the ladies a little hard done by. However, this is where White Day comes in…

On White Day (March 14th), the tables turn and men return the gesture. If you’re a man and a woman gave you a gift on Valentine’s Day, then White Day gives you the chance to present her with a gift of your choosing exactly one month later.

Who invented White Day?

Just like Valentine’s Day, the invention of White Day was actually a savvy business decision. In the late 1970s, a small confectionery shop named Ishimura Manseido arrived at the idea of another day of gift-giving. Zengo Ishimura, one of the company’s executives, started thinking about the concept after reading a complaint about the one-sided nature of Valentine’s Day in a magazine.

When Ishimura thought about it, it made perfect sense. Why not create a special day for women to receive sweets, chocolates, and other small gifts? Women probably wouldn’t say no to their own day of gifts. And surely men would appreciate an opportunity to return the favour? That settled it. Ishimura developed his bright idea. He even went on to create a new sweet to be gifted on the day — chocolate encased in marshmallow paste.

Ishimura settled on March 14th after sharing the plan with his female employees and asking for their input. Everyone agreed that one month after Valentine’s Day was the perfect time to celebrate this second gift-giving event. March 14th also happens to be just a few days after International Women’s Day, making it even more fitting.

In 1978, the first White Day was celebrated. Though back then it was simply called “Marshmallow Day,” after Ishimura’s innovative marshmallow creation. To allow greater scope for other presents to be gifted, the name was soon changed to “White Day” — a subtle, more open-ended reference to white marshmallows. Ishimura didn’t know it at the time, but White Day would soon become a long-standing tradition that would spread from Japan to China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Marshmallows: a traditional White Day gift

White Day traditions

We’ve mentioned that, generally, White Day is simply a day for men to give gifts to women who treated them on Valentine’s Day. However, there are a few common traditions in Japan.

Honmei-choco

If you’re gifting a romantic “honmei” (true love) present on White Day, then your significant other will expect you to make a grander gesture.

No one wants their loved one to think they are skimping on their gift, so men go to great lengths to ensure their treat is from an enviable shop, has fancy packaging, and is widely considered to be a fabulous White Day gift. High-quality pudding and chocolates are popular gifts that continue the confectionary tradition first created by Ishimura.

Giri-choco

For male coworkers and friends gifting “giri-choc” (obligatory chocolate), there are fewer expectations. It’s common for male employees to purchase a gift for their female coworkers to share around the office. For male bosses, it’s traditional to treat female employees to generous amounts of chocolate and sweet treats. However, it should always be more than what he received from them the previous month. After all, he’s earning more, so it’s only fair!

Generally, a present is in proportion to the meaning behind the gift. If a man wants to declare his love or show his adoration for his partner, bigger is better. He doesn’t need to be concerned about giving the wrong impression, so an array of indulgent chocolates, sweets and larger gifts will go down a treat.

On the other hand, if a man is giving his White Day present as a platonic gift or within a work setting, he might go for something generous but not too flashy. This helps to keep costs down if he is buying for a few friends or coworkers and ensures no one is offended or embarrassed by the size of their Valentine’s gift. If he’s in a relationship, it also means he can spend more on his partner!

How to celebrate White Day

Giving a gift on March 14th could be a romantic new tradition to start with your partner, regardless of gender. If you’ve never celebrated White Day before, why not share the idea with your loved one? Better yet, you could surprise them (though you might want to explain why you haven’t bought them a present on Valentine’s Day).

Plan your gifts, whether you’ll be surprising them with a hamper of chocolate, exciting and unconventional chocolates, or an experience for the both of you to enjoy together, and write a heartfelt card. If you’re wrapping your gifts, why not go for a white colour scheme in keeping with White Day. Alternatively, go eco-friendly by recycling old magazines or newspapers.

If you want to celebrate White Day by expressing your gratitude for the women in your life, this is a great idea too. Pop some smaller chocolate gifts through their letterbox with a note — they will be delighted that you thought of them. You could even introduce the concept to your workplace if they often celebrate similar holidays — they might be able to arrange a surprise for your coworkers.

There are no rules on how to celebrate White Day, so plan some fun activities and create your own traditions.

White cake

Perfect White Day gifts

To help you with your White Day gift hunt, we’ve compiled a list of present-worthy treats. Whether you’re buying for a partner, colleague, friend (or crush!), you’ll be able to find something they’ll adore. For the best inspiration, take a look at our Gifts for Her or our entire white chocolate collection.

For that special someone

You could also make your own homemade hamper — a great way to compile a few of her favourite goodies.

Smaller gifts for friends

We hope we’ve explained a little bit about the history of White Day and inspired you to celebrate it yourself. Whichever gifts you choose and however you decide to spend the day  — have a wonderful time!