Yesterday was a very special day in Korea: Pepero Day. A Pepero is a long straw-shaped cookie dipped in chocolate. There are variations on the theme of course – crushed almond covered, milk chocolate, dark chocolate etc. But essentially this is what a Pepero looks like:
This box was a present from a student who can’t spell my name. I keep telling them my name isn’t a verb but they never seem to listen! 😀
Koreans think that 11-11 looks like 4 Pepero in a line and thus have declared a national holiday of sorts to celebrate a baked good. Yesterday being 11-11-11 was cause for major celebration.
I went to my grocery store on Thursday night (10-11-11) only to find it in a state of utter mayhem. There were balloon arches and fake Pepero taller than me (since I am 6 feet tall, this was a bit alarming!). There were scantily clad young ladies wearing bobbly Pepero headbands dancing by the enormous Pepero display. Throngs of children roamed everywhere, arms full of Pepero. Couples young and old, eyeballed the section of the display labelled “sweet love Pepero.”
I decided I didn’t need anything badly enough to brave the lines at the checkouts. As I walked home, I marvelled at the brilliant marketing skills of the Pepero people; somebody was becoming extremely wealthy from a very simple idea. The funny thing about Pepero is that they don’t even taste very nice! Kind of like chocolate covered cardboard.
School the next day was complete chaos. Everyone exchanged Pepero. Children gave them to each other and to the teachers. Teachers gave them to each other. Husbands to wives, mothers to children, crossing guards to bus drivers – everywhere I looked, people were exchanging Pepero.
Over the course of the day, I watched and learned the whole Pepero culture. It seemed that you could judge how the giver felt about people from the Pepero they gave. Single individually wrapped Pepero seemed to be the low end of the scale. The boxes got larger and the flavours more complex as your esteem for the person rose. One of the ladies in my staffroom got about 25 boxes of strawberry flavoured Pepero from her boyfriend – the boxes had been tapped into a huge heart shape. 🙂
Some of the packaging I found a bit odd though. Why were Pepero associated with love? If I didn’t get any Pepero was I supposed to assume that no one loved me? The box of Pepero in the picture above claims to be a coupon from the “I Love You Bank”. I couldn’t read much of the Korean on the box but I wondered what I was supposedly entitled to as a bearer of a coupon from the Bank of Love…
And what about this brand of Pepero? Surely it doesn’t take an English genius to figure out that there’s something wrong with marketing a “Premium I Love You LONG stick” to children? Or perhaps my brain is just in the gutter….