At work and at play | Our Valentine’s Day


It only seems like yesterday that we packed away our Christmas decorations. We just had Fastelavn and across the world people have just celebrated Mardi Gras and the start of Lent. And no sooner had that ended, we had Valentine’s Day!

In my family, Valentine’s Day has a different significance as it is our family name and that of my extended family-in-law in England. We joke that every day at our house is Valentine’s Day. At our preschool, we had the children make Valentine cards for their parents as we do for all similar events such as Mother’s Day, Easter etc. But what does Valentine’s Day really mean to us in 2013? Is it really about showing some tenderness and spoiling your loved one? Or about showing your secret infatuation for someone you admire from afar? Or is it all just a huge marketing exercise and only about spending money?

When we lived in Japan, we discovered a different Valentine’s Day altogether. ‘Barentain Dei’ (on the same day and to be pronounced with a Japanese accent) is a day when Japanese women give chocolate not only to their partners and crushes, but also to their male colleagues! They have a term called ‘giri choco’, meaning ‘obligation chocolate’, because social pressure and etiquette is such that they cannot avoid forking out for a large amount of chocolate on February 14. My husband needed to explain why he returned home with such gifts. Fortunately they weren’t from his fawning female office workers, but purely given because this is how things are done in Japan.

Barentain Dei is then followed exactly a month later by White Day on March 14. This is the day when the men give the chocolate, but they only have to do it selectively to just a lucky few. So somehow the men do not need to give as generously as they receive! This tradition has been enormously successful for Meiji, a big Japanese confectionery company, but needless to say that some of the charm and romance is lost through all this obligation.

Whether your name is Valentine or not, Valentine’s Day should be no different to any other day of the year. We should always appreciate our loved ones and take the chance to spoil them once in a while. But if you did go out on a date on February 14, I hope that you had a lovely time. And thank you for celebrating our day in your own way!