The Love of the Cookie Stick: Pepero Day (뻬뻬로 데이)


Anthropomorphized cookie sticks feel the blush of first love.

In South Korea, November 11 is Pepero Day, named for the eponymous chocolate-dipped cookie stick (called it Pocky, much like one could call the East Sea the Sea of Japan, and prepare to be seethed at). It is, apparently, an actual thing, and was reportedly started by a teeming horde of Korean middle school girls somewhere. They began gifting each other Pepero sticks on November 11 (11/11, because that’s four Peperos together) so that they might one day grow up to be tall and slender, like the candy. And, one presumes, slathered in chocolate syrup of moderate quality. (The irony of giving fattening sweets in order to hope to become skinny and Amazonian is apparently lost on middle schoolers).

What does this day entail? Apparently it’s taken on a sort of pseudo-Valentine’s day artifice, and couples are thus expected to buy gifts for one another, ranging from a box of cookie sticks to lavish dinners and expensive foreign treats (one of my co-teachers, remarking how much shit he got in when he forgot White Day, sheepishly said he would be taking his girlfriend our for Pepero day that night. As a courtesy and because I would have only then had to explain the meaning and context, I did not make an ostentatious whipping motion, nor say “whhh-ch!”). Kids here do as many Western kids do on Valentine’s or Halloween back home: they get their parents to splurge on a pile of candy and treats and spend all day giving them to one another.

Lest we forget our lovely and sweety.

I was thus chased about the halls all day, students alternately handing me full boxes of candy or charging at me and trying to shake me down for any loose Pepero. (I told the little urchins that it was their turn to fork over candy: I had given them abundant sweets on my regional holiday, and it was time for them to return the favour). I received all kinds: individually wrapped mega-sticks, full boxes or packets, special flavours, individual sticks covetously handed over to me, as though only through coercion. They offered them happily, but their eyes bespoke more: take only ONE, you white devil, and don’t you even try to get all grabby with my stash.

It’s a peculiar holiday. It would be as though Canada began KitKat day, where everyone bought KitKats and similar products for one another to show affection. Which, I guess, makes it pretty much exactly like Valentine’s Day, but just with a lot more specific and targeted marketing, and absolutely bare brand loyalty. Is it shameful? Sort of. Is it crass consumerism? Sure. Does it invite a day of really terrible eating and dental health choices? Certainly. But you guys: Peperos are pretty delicious. So, really, balls to all that. If November 11th weren’t occupied by a significantly more important holiday in my home country, I would try bringing it back for sure. Viva Pepero Day.

Pepero Day is the embodiment of love.

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5 thoughts on “The Love of the Cookie Stick: Pepero Day (뻬뻬로 데이)

  1. Enjoyed reading this post! I like peperos but I didn’t know peperos were THAT big in Korea that they would spend an entire day swapping pepero sticks! Why do I get the feeling that pepero companies are behind this…

    • Korea loves couples’ holidays, and any excuse for another is seized upon.

      But yeah, my bet is that Pepero (I think they’re made by Lotte?) was behind the original invention, cute story about middle schoolers or no.

  2. >called it Pocky

    Are they the same type of snack as Japan’s “Pocky“?

    I heard that Korea adopted Japanese style “Valentines Day” on Feb 14 (girls give chocolate to boys) and also adopted the Japanese holiday “White Day” on March 14 (which is similar to Valentines Day in the West)…but Korea added another holiday called “Black Day” on April 14.

    How is “Black Day” celebrated?

    (My FAQ about Japan’s Valentines Day:
    http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~tokyo5/faq.html#valentine
    and White Day
    http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~tokyo5/faq.html#white_day )

    Anyways, how long have you been in Korea? Have you ever visited Japan?

    • They’re basically the same as Pocky, but under different branding. I don’t imagine Koreans would enjoy a favoured national treat being Japanese.

      Valentine’s and White Day, indeed, are the same as in Japan. Black Day (though I haven’t experienced it myself yet) is a Single’s Holiday to combat the prevalence of the couple’s ones, although from what I’ve gathered it’s practically a solemn affair. Singles gather in Chinese restaurants to eat jjajangmyeon (짜장면, a Chinese black noodle dish) and, essentially, cry about being single. Apparently people look for dates on that day too, to avoid ever having to be single on Black Day again.

      I’ve been in Korea about 5 months. Have not yet visited Japan, but it is certainly on my list of needs (this vacation period, I could not bear to think of going to another cold place, and thus I am flying south).

  3. Pingback: Chocolate and Turmoil « Stupid Ugly Foreigner

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