Relationships and love are not taken lightly in South Korea. There are over twenty holidays devoted to celebrating one's affections for family, friends, and beloveds. For starters, the 14th of each month is set aside for sweethearts. Also, just as in North America, Valentine's Day is celebrated in South Korea, but with a slight variation on the tradition. Only the women give gifts on Valentines Day. To balance this out there is "White Day" one month later when men take their turn giving gifts. This is one of the many holidays that have been named after a color with "Black Day," "Silver Day," "Green Day,"and "Yellow Day" dotting the South Korean calendar.
November 11th is one of these special days, but it's not named after a color, but a particular brand of chocolate. While the U.S. celebrates Veteran's Day and other countries pay tribute to the sacrifices made during times of war under the name of Remembrance Day and Armistice Day, South Korea has set aside November 11 for a much more lighthearted holiday. It's known as Pepero Day. Pepero is a brand of cookie--a long, thin crunchy wafer half dipped in chocolate. The day is centered around the exchanging and eating of these Pepero sticks with as many family, boyfriends, girlfriends, and acquaintances who are willing to accept your offering. This practice is extremely popular with children, so if you don't happen to like the snack, it's a bad day to be a schoolteacher, as your desk will become a buffet table of Pepero products.
And why is today the special day for celebrating Pepero? The date of November 11 was chosen because when written as 11/11, it resembles four, long Pepero sticks. The legend is that Pepero Day began in Busan (South Korea's second largest city after Seoul) when some middle school girls started exchanging the snack with the wish that they would become "as tall and slender as a Pepero." But it is more widely accepted that the custom was begun by Pepero's manufacturers who, by making their product an unofficial national holiday, have perhaps found one of the most effective means of marketing possible.
Regardless of Pepero Day's origins, its celebration has become an annual tradition since 1994, and, each year as the day approaches, South Koreans stock up on these little confections to be ready to use them as an expression of their esteem and affections for those they hold near and dear. So, if you can't wait for Valentine's Day, and you want a way to let that special someone know that you care, check out your local specialty store for these crunchy treats. If he or she looks at you quizzically when presented with these gifts, just smile widely and say "Happy Pepero Day!"
Copyright 2006© Stephanie Boluk
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Monday, 30-Oct-2006 13:23:56 EST