November 11th Is Pepero Day in Korea
Last November I began to see red, heart-shaped gift baskets decorating the windows of bakeries and convenience stores. It looked like a cross between Easter and Valentine’s Day. I asked my Korean friend about it and wondered what holiday was taking place. My friend told me it was Pepero Day, celebrated each year on November 11. When the 11th rolled around this year, I was certain to pay more attention now that I was “in the know.”
Pepero are long thin cookie sticks dipped in chocolate. I was more familiar with a (uncannily) similar product in Japan called Pocky. Pocky is produced by Gilco while Pepero were introduced by Lotte in Korea in 1983. Hmmm. However, in Japan there’s no holiday celebrating Pocky. The Korea Times explains, “Pepero Day is when friends and lovers give chocolate-covered sticks to each other. Lotte benefited immensely when one day many years ago middle and high school girls in Busan lined up to receive Pepero sticks. The chocolate sticks, forming the date Nov. 11, saw the girls decide to exchange the snack every year to remember their friendship.” It’s said the girls gave sticks to their friends on November 11th saying, “Be tall and think like the number 1.”
The Korea Times article goes on to say, “About 65 percent of the annual sales for the snack are concentrated on and around Pepero Day, which falls on Nov. 11. The sweets maker posted monthly sales of 10 billion won for the first time in October 2004, with the figure since shooting up.
Pepero was the second-best-selling product among dried products for Lotte in Korea, generating 55 billion won, or 7 percent of its total sales, last year alone. The company’s total sales in 2008 were 1.2 trillion won.
‘October is the best-selling month because of Pepero Day,’ a Lotte official said.”
What struck me as really funny was the report that Korea’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has made attempts to capitalize on the success of Pepero Day by also designating Nov. 11 as “Garaetteok Day” to stimulate the sale of rice. Garaetteok is Korea’s traditional rice cake. Not sure if that strategy it working. There were no rice cakes for sale in red, heart-shaped baskets.
To learn more about Pepero Day, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepero. Or, ask your questions here.