Valentines Day in Dubai, and in Japan

chocolates valentines

This post was written in 2011. There’s not much to say about Valentines Day in Dubai as it is the same as in other countries. Although it is worth mentioning that February 15 is an Islamic Holiday – Prophet Muhammad’s birthday so hotels are gearing up for a “dry night” starting from the night before. No music and alcohol on Valentines day.

Let’s talk about one weird Valentines Day tradition I know and lived to tell (ha ha). Valentines Day in Japan.

When you hear it, it’ll take some time to believe how Japan celebrates Valentines Day until your first February 14 there. It will take a bit more time to accept the strangeness  and I haven’t been able to accept it still, even after spending 11 Valentines there.

It’s weird in Japan (at least for me) because the romantic (Valentines Day-like) date night is celebrated on Christmas Eve. On February 14th when lovers across the globe exchange gifts or at least the men give gifts, women are the ones giving the men chocolates in Japan.

Not your usual chocolates – they’ve got 2 types

  • “Giri” chocolates are relatively from the shelf, common and inexquisite (inexpensive) because they are given by women to men they do not have special love for. Ouch.

Giri means “duty” or “obligation” – what a word to be used together with chocolates and Valentines Day! Giri chocolates are usually given out by female employees to their male bosses and co-workers.

  • Honmei chocolate on the other hand, literally translates to “true feeling chocolate”.

It’s either a more expensive chocolate or a specially homemade one.

It’s funny that I had friends in the university who labor through the night before Valentines making chocolates and putting them in cute little boxes with notes. We are talking about girls here that do not even know how to turn the rice cooker on!

Something called “White Day
When the Valentine dust settles and all the chocolates are given away, ladies start a countdown: 30 days to White Day. On March 14, Japanese men give back to the women. Men, who received giri choco or honmei chocolate on Valentine’s Day, are expected to return the favor by giving gifts to women.

Do you know of any weird Valentines Day tradition? What do you think of Japan’s way of celebrating Valentines?


UPDATE: As pointed out by reader Krista, “Isn’t a birthday always on the same day? So why, if the Prophet’s birthday is on the 15th, isn’t every year a dry Valentine’s Day?”

Well, the Islamic Calendar moves 10 days earlier every year so Valentines day is not a dry day in Dubai every year. Last year’s Prophet’s birthday was on February 25, this year is on the 15th and next year will be on the 5th.

Photo credit

my sweet valentine

It was just another day at the office. It’s Saturday and I am back working with minimal things to do and with very limited (I can only check mails; this post is written at home) internet access, I was terribly bored thinking of lots of (bloggy) things but could not post any.

The mailman came and tapped my shoulders. He had a parcel for me!

valentine chocolates

Oh my God, is all I can say when I opened the package from my Valentine Goody Swap partner, Cathi. My Valentine’s have never been better! Cathi just hit the spot by sending me chocolates that are not just chocolates; she sent me my favorite Lindt chocolates among others she put in the box too! Thanks, Cathi! I hope you get my package too, soon!Now I really feel bad because I am not sure when she’ll get mine. I mailed it a week before Valentines but the parcel came back to me after five days for undisclosed reason. It must be the red heart-shaped box that Emirates Post did not like so I had to repack it and send it over again — after Valentine’s! 

Watch out for the empty cereal box wrapped around with lots of packing tape, Cathi! I hope you like it.

hearts on parade

Yesterday we went to the mall to find some ingredients for the bake sale tomorrow at our daughter’s school. It’s just Tuesday so the malls wouldn’t be packed like crazy like when it is Thursday night, the last working week of the hardworking people of the UAE.

The mall was full. What were the people doing there? and all the rows and rows of heart-shaped cases of chocolates and fancies? Looks like Dubaians start preparing for Valentine’s Day early. A man hoarded an entire cart-full of red heart-shaped box of Lindor chocolates — for his, ah, many wives? Just kidding, I don’t know.

With that thought, I remembered the news flash on the radio this morning:

The virtue police in Saudi Arabia have ordered shops to remove roses and other items that are red to prevent the celebration of Valentine’s day February 14. The V-day ban is imposed because this particular occasion encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women.

However here in Dubai, also a city in the Middle East, the whole city is preparing for Valentines. The malls, the florists are donned in red, hotels and restaurants have some programs and promotions aired over the radio over and over. A little freedom is delicious.

sweet exchange for Valentines

Kailani over at An Island Life is hosting a Valentine’s Day Goodie Swap and I signed up! I know, I know, I am on a diet and not supposed to be eating sweets but promise I’ll do it (eat) in moderation. The idea of swapping gifts with another blogger from another side of the world picked by Kailani in random is exciting I had to join.


You can join the fun, too. Swap partners will be announced on February 1st, so you have only some days left. Go check it out if you are curious.

There was a questionnaire about Valentine’s and here goes my answers for them:

  • What is your idea of a romantic Valentines Day?

A romantic dinner at a restaurant I haven’t been to, with sparkling wine and maybe a romantic movie afterwards.

  • In reality, what is your Valentines Day really like?

Be prepared to be shocked: we don’t celebrate Valentine’s. Pre or post-baby, we never did. You can kick my husband now. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated peculiarly. The females give chocolates to the males. I baked brownies.

  • If you could have a lifetime supply of your favorite sweet indulgence, what would it be?

That would be Lindt milk chocolates or Ritter Sport Marzipan and VolMilch, Hazel Nuss, Dark, all of them!

  • Is there any sweet treat you absolutely do not like?

I don’t like anything with rice crispies in it.

  • If you fell into a pool of chocolate, how would you get out?

Who would want to get out? I would prove to the world that man (woman) CAN live by choc alone!

I will let you all know what I received after the day of hearts…or after my package arrives. I hope the Dubai postal system does not play its prank on me this time. The Christmas cards sent from friends last month has not yet arrived!