November 11th. Back in the U.S., citizens are thanking a Veteran. Thank you!
Here in Korea, we’re celebrating a holiday of a different sort: Pepero Day.
Pepero are very thin, long cookies dipped in chocolate or another tasty candy coating. You might know them as the Japanese confection Pocky Sticks. I now know them as the calories overloading my desk drawer waiting for a stressful day at the office.
Every year on November 11, couples and children exchange packages of Pepero, manufactured by the company Lotte. In Korea, Lotte is the company that owns, well, everything, from the Busan Lotte Giants baseball team to large apartment complexes, get-everything-you-could-possibly-need-in-one-place department stores, soda brands, amusement parks, and insurance companies.
The mythical beginnings of Pepero day date back to the 1990’s, and it’s origins remain controversial today. Some say (Wikipedia says) it was none other than Busan middle school girls that exchanged Pepero first, as a well wish to others that they could become long and slender like the cookies. Others (my students) say that it is a marketing ploy by Lotte to sell more product. November 11, 11/11, looks like four Pepero sticks. Clever, isn’t it?
Contrived as it is, the small celebration today was a nice relief for the kids. And all the teachers, who thanks to the generosity of our students’ mothers, now each have a drawer full of chocolate.