Valentine’s Day both loses and gains something in translation. For the Japanese, today is the day when the women give chocolate (and only chocolate) to the men. This is because one chocolate company made a translation mistake, switching the genders, when introducing the feast to Japan in the 1950s. A month later, on White Day, the men return the gift and give chocolates to the women, and the chocolatiers laugh all the way to the bank.
This Valentine’s mishap one of an entertaining round-up of mistranslations that changed the course of history, costing up to 71 million dollars.
But there’s no need to spend quite that much on chocolate today. Especially if you live on the Gulf of Finland. In Finland (Ystävänpäivä) and Estonia (Sõbrapäev), 14 February has been celebrated since the 1980s as Friends’ Day, an altogether more relaxed and inclusive feast. Today, rather than buying chocolates for your woman/man, you might be just as likely to bake your friend a cake.
Happy Friends’ Day!