Japan's White Day

on Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japanese celebrate White Day exactly one month after Valentine’s Day. This holiday resembles Valentine’s Day, but is brilliantly designed to trigger even more spending. The holiday functions is as follows:

1. On Valentine’s Day (February 14), only women are expected to give gifts of chocolate to men. Men do not return the favor.

2. Women give special hand-made chocolates to men with whom they are romantically involved, but additionally give less expensive chocolates and sweets to other men they know (e.g., coworkers).

3. One month later (March 14), Japan celebrates White Day during which men reciprocate the Valentine’s Day chocolates they received by giving a more expensive gift to each woman who gave them a gift.

This tradition is not an ancient cultural tradition. White Day was created in 1978 by the National Confectionery Industry Association. It was clearly designed with an eye to expanding confectionery sales.

The spending potential associated with White Day is far higher than Valentine’s Day in the U.S. By separating the holidays and holding it one month after Valentine’s Day, White Day explicitly forces both men and women to give gifts. In the U.S., it is not unusual that women only receive gifts and do not reciprocate.