When in Korea….eat Pepero on Remembrance Day. One of the things I love about living in other countries is celebrating different holidays with the locals. Instead of wearing a poppy in 2011, I was eating chocolate covered biscuit sticks on November 11th in South Korea. It was a special day ~ Pepero Day~ and even though I didn’t have a special someone to share it with, my students made sure I sampled their mothers’ homemade chocolate sticks.
I also received numerous packs of Pepero manufactured by Lotte, the huge conglomerate, that specializes in everything from chewing gum to amusement parks. There are rumours that Lotte invented Pepero Day, but I prefer the story of teenage girls in Busan giving the biscuit sticks to their friends on November 11th. Even though the wishes attached to the giving of Pepero were to be stick thin like the snack and the number 11, I like to think that the tradition was born out of friendship, rather than out of a marketing ploy. In a way, it reminds me of Valentine’s Day in elementary school when you would give Snoopy cards to your friends, girls and boys alike. In South Korea, Pepero Day is celebrated among couples and friends. It’s another excuse to add something sweet and romantic to their busy lives of work, study, and not enough play. At least, that’s the way I saw it.
Today I wore my poppy in Canada, and while I thought about war and peace, I also thought about sweetness, and love in Korea. I remembered the smiles of my students as they shared the biscuits with their friends, and the care-free look of the couples, often in matching clothes, as they held a biscuit between their teeth. I also remember how I got swept up in the local celebration, and wished all my coworkers,”Happy Pepero Day!”, offering them a chocolate stick.