SEOUL It was a Black Day for love in South Korea on Monday with lonely hearts trying to ease their pain by diving head first into bowls of noodles.
South Korea celebrates Valentine's Day, where local custom dictates women give gifts to men. It has taken on a popular event born in Japan but sweeping Asia known as White Day on March 14 when men return the favour with gifts for women.
But Black Day, on April 14, is a South Korean original. It is marked by people who have not found love dressing in dark colours and commiserating over meals of black food, with the dish of choice being Chinese-style noodles topped with a thick sauce of black bean paste.
"I had a miserable time on Valentine's Day, felt even lonelier on White Day and now I'm crying over a bowl of black noodles," said a young women who asked only to be identified by her family name Na out of embarrassment.
"Things better be different next year."
At universities across the country on Monday, students without lunch dates ordered black noodles, dined with other lonely hearts and searched for companionship.
South Korea marketers have hatched special days for the 14th of each month to create a calendar laden with love.
Some days have gained traction such as Black Day, while others such as Green Day in August, when couples are supposed to drink cheap liquor that comes in green bottles and walk in the woods, have yet to attract much of a following.
Black Day events have snowballed, with a major matchmaking service this year providing an evening of speed dating where the dish of choice is sushi blackened by squid ink.
An on-line company for movie tickets sponsored a speed eating competition of black noodles for those who bought single tickets for the latest films.
"It is depressing enough going to the movies by yourself," said Shin Youn-joo of the company called Max Movie.
"We just wanted to spread a little joy to the 'with-outs'."
(Additional reporting by Jung Hee-jung and Lee Jiyeon; Editing by Nick Macfie)