Pepero Day: What it is and other cool facts

pepero day

There is a great deal of discussion over how Pepero Day came to be. Was it to commemorate the fact that one was tall and thin? Or to express good wishes to others? Perhaps this is an occasion to indulge in a chocolate nibble that pairs wonderfully with a cup of steaming coffee during the chilly Korean winter?

Pepero Day is more than simply a fanciful festival to give sweet gifts to your friends and loved ones; you should also know the dark side to the history of this day. Discover how this seemingly benign celebration is actually masking a strong rivalry with a close neighbor, as well as a war between corporate heavyweights from both countries.

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Image credits: Westwood Horizon

Pepero Day is explained further in this twisted story, which provides insight into how Pepero Day is celebrated in South Korea and what to do on this delightful day.

What is Pepero Day in Korea?

Pepero Day (빼빼로 데이) is observed on November 11th every year. It has been gaining in popularity since the late 1990s, when it was first observed. Pocky Day, a very similar festival celebrated in Japan, should not be confused with this one.

It is a cross between Valentine’s Day and Easter. People give delicious snacks to their friends and loved ones on Valentine’s Day, and Easter. People eat a lot of chocolate-covered delicacies on Easter.

The essence of the festival is that it is a time for giving gifts, but it also provides ample opportunity for self-indulgence. People in Korea who get Pepero include children, co-workers, and members of their own families, among others. There aren’t any restrictions in place at all. As a gift, it will almost surely just make you look good while not costing you much money (unless you have a huge number of co-workers or friends to give it to!). It is a low-cost Japanese snack.

What are Pepero?

Pepero are chocolate-covered thin biscuit sticks that you may eat slowly, soak in coffee, poke your pals with, or insert in your mouth to act like a vampire. They’re highly adaptable and entertaining, and they come in a growing variety of flavors and styles. Every year, it seems that Lotte releases a new Pepero, each with a different flavor, shape, and size than the original tall, thin Pepero.

3 different flavors
Image credits: Koreaby me

Here are some of the several Pepero flavours you can try:

  • Chocolate (Original)
  • Almond (coated with Chocolate)
  • Green Tea
  • Strawberry
  • White Chocolate Cookie
  • Black Chocolate Cookie
  • Tiramisu Cheese
  • Peanut
  • Melon
  • Black Chocolate
  • Latte
  • Yakult Yoghurt
  • Cherry double dip
  • Strawberry double dip
  • Blueberry Yogurt
  • Mint Choco
  • Dark Chocolate (original)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cheddar Cheese

And here are some of the numerous types of Pepero you may consume in Korea on Pepero Day.

  • Original – Biscuits with chocolate coating
  • Nude – Consists of a chocolate center with a biscuit coating on the outside.
  • Double “Dip” – Instead of one coating, there are two.
  • Giant Pepero – Pepero that is significantly taller and thicker than the original.

Who made Pepero?

Lotte Corporation, one of Korea’s major conglomerates that seems to create everything (like Samsung & LG), makes Pepero. The backstory of how they came up with the idea for Pepero was that every November 11th, they noticed a big rise in sales in this region. As a result, the firm began an investigation, and they discovered that students in this region shared a box of Pepero as a wish to stay thin while taunting each other to (sal jom ppaeja), which translates to “Let’s lose some weight.”

Lottecorp feat
Image credits: KED Global

After 1996, the marketing team took this notion and began promoting Pepero Day, which became quite well-known. As you might expect, Lotte is the true winner of Pepero Day, and they make the majority of their money from Pepero on and around November 11th, Pepero Day. It’s a joyful celebration that, while heavily commercialized, is all about giving gifts to friends and receiving delectable treats to savor on this special day.

What was the Origin of Pepero Day?

So, how did Koreans come to eat Pepero every year on November 11th? Actually, the reality isn’t all that obvious; like so many other traditions and beliefs, it’s been lost in the sands of time. According to Lotte, it all started in the 1980s when schoolgirls handed Pepero to one other in the hopes of becoming tall and skinny like the snack itself.

As a result, Lotte sells everyone the dream of being as tall and skinny as a Pepero. In fact, on November 11th, you must consume 11 packets of Pepero at exactly 11 seconds past 11:11 AM and 11:11 PM to become tall and skinny.

Are you up for the task this year on Pepero Day in Korea? Another theory is that the Pepero sticks resemble the number one. November 11th (11/11) has more 1s than any other date; thus, this must be the best time to eat Pocky! Whatever the case may be, Pepero Day is an enormous business for Lotte in Korea. During this time, 50% of all Pepero sales occur.

Pepero’s Dark History: Pepero Day vs. Pocky Day

There is a bit of a debate about the two items. Pocky was introduced by Glico in 1966, 17 years before Pepero was introduced in 1983. Glico tried to ban Lotte from selling Pepero, claiming it was a clear duplicate of Pocky. As you can see, it was clearly the case.

On the other hand, Lotte claimed that there was no copyright infringement because Pocky were not sold in Korea at the time. Yes, I’m not sure that would fly in most nations, but it saved Lotte and allowed them to continue producing Pepero.

But there’s more twist in store… Pocky Day came before Pepero Day!

Image credits: Misooda

Pepero Day began in the 1980s and was declared a national holiday in Korea in 1997. Pocky Day was formally recognized in Japan in 1999, two years after Pepero Day, according to Glico’s vision of the huge money that could be made. As a result of this odd case of copyright infringement and idea theft, both companies have profited. Any the case may be, we’re all winners since we can now celebrate Pepero Day in Korea or Pocky Day in Japan, or whatever holiday we wish. Both are on sale in Korea, so choose your side wisely.

What Should you do on Pepero Day in Korea?

Why not participate in the gift-giving if you live in or visit Korea? Pepero are reasonably priced (1,5000 won / $1.30) and certainly less expensive than a large box of chocolates. For Pepero Day, there are a lot of special Pepero boxes. You can write a hidden message for a friend or even a crush on some of them! You can even find a huge Pepero that will reportedly go over well with a loved one.

pepero day bounty
Image credits: Austin Gilmour

Giving a box of Pepero to co-workers, acquaintances, teachers, or pupils is common. It’s comparable to the red money envelopes given out in China around Chinese New Year, although it’s a lot less expensive. If you want to be a mysterious Pepero giver, smuggle some boxes of Pepero onto your co-workers’ desks, leave some large Pepero in front of your crush’s door, or leave some giant Pepero for your crush. Alternatively, write a charming message on a day with fewer romantic obligations than Valentine’s Day and declare your thoughts.

Fun Facts About Pepero Day

Pepero Day has two origin stories

Pepero Day is usually observed on November 11th. While some traditions claim that Pepero’s shape resembles that of a number 1, and that two Peperos shared by two individuals equals 11, there have been various interpretations of Pepero’s genesis story.

On the Eleventh Day, at the Eleventh Hour

The legend of eating Pepero to lose weight is a detailed set of instructions. To make the alleged legend operate, one must consume a Pepero on November 11th at 11:11 AM or PM on the eleventh second.

A Tale of Two Students

According to another origin tale, two female middle school students exchanged Pepero in 1983 in the hopes of becoming tall and slim by eating it. Following its appearance in the mainstream media, the tale quickly traveled across the country, encouraging other students to share their Pepero in the hopes of reducing a few pounds and inches in height.

All the Flavours

Pepero is currently available in ten different flavors. The most popular varieties are Chocolate, almond, and strawberry, with tiramisu with cheese and melon being unique. Homemade Pepero is also a terrific opportunity to personalize them for that special someone and to adorn and flavor them according to your preferences lavishly.

Pepero: A License to Print Money

Lotte estimates that November accounts for up to 65 percent of their annual Pepero sales and earnings, with department stores such as E-mart and Homeplus reporting increased sales as well.

Pocky vs. Pepero

Pepero and Pocky, a comparable Japanese flavored snack, have a lot in common, including the same form, some of the same flavors, and even accusations of ripping off their packaging. Glico, the company that makes Pocky, considered taking legal action against Lotte, the Pepero makers but decided against it because Pocky wasn’t commercially available in Korea at the time. This has resulted in a flurry of taste testing to see whether one is truly superior.

Premium Pepero

On Pepero Day, you may buy a variety of Pepero and Pepero gift sets, some of which cost up to 55,000 won! Some of these options are available as gift baskets, plush animals, or extra-large boxes.

The Pepero Alternative

Another option for commemorating Pepero Day is to commemorate Garaetteok Day, a special day on November 11th dedicated to honoring Korea’s farmers. Garaetteok are white tteok (rice cake) sticks that are a healthier and more traditional alternative to Pepero.

Elegant Design and Function

Except on Pepero Day, when the box design contains elegant-looking designs and colored edges to create attractive shapes and displays such as huge hearts, Pepero boxes look the same throughout the year.

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