Unhappy Valentine’s Day

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As I have written before, Japanese Valentine’s Day traditions are different from American traditions. Most commonly known, is that women give chocolates to co-workers and loved ones and then wait patiently until White Day, March 14th, to see who gives chocolates back. I have expressed my feelings that this is a practice for weak or conniving men. (Needless to say, this doesn’t endear me to the men.)

More recently it has become common to exchange chocolates between friends as well. However, at one elementary school I was shocked to see the following message in large characters on the office chalkboard:

明日、バレンタインデーの贈り物

学校でのやりとり禁止!!

This reads: “Ashita, barentaindee no okurimono gakkou deno yaritori kinshi!!” Or, in English: “Tomorrow, exchanging Valentine’s Day presents at school is forbidden!” First, I was stricken by the very severe and direct language; normally, I would expect the school to use very polite language asking us to please strive to restrain from exchanging gifts or such. Second, I was struck by a subtle misunderstanding that could arise.

Yaritori means ‘to exchange’ or ‘to give and receive’. The amusing thought hit me that this sentence could be taken to mean that the more recent tradition of exchanging is forbidden, but that the older tradition of only women giving chocolates to men is still OK. Everyone assured me that, although this misinterpretation was possible, they were sure that ‘all giving OR receiving’ was probably forbidden.

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2 Responses to “Unhappy Valentine’s Day”

  1. Sunkissd1 Says:

    I think the whole holiday has been way over commercialized in the US as well. It’s supposed to be a holiday for lovers and sweethearts, yet now there’s all this pressure for not only cards, gifts, etc., for them, but everyone else you know as well. There was a discussion about this and how the card shops have all these sections for teachers, co-workers, friends, parents, children, etc. It’s gotten quite ridiculous.

  2. びっくり Says:

    Thanks for all the comments today; if a few people leave a lot of comments I can still fool myself into believing I’m popular. I think having all the cards is good, but when people start believing they must receive these things, then it has surely gone awry.

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