Pepero (빼빼로) Day is held annually on November 11, and is an observance in South Korea similar to Valentine's Day. It involves the gifting or exchange of Pepero snacks, a line of chocolate-dipped cookie sticks, with the intention of displaying affection for friends and loved ones. It is held on this day due to the resemblance of Pepero sticks, which are vertical that mirror the shortened date of 11/11. Pepero Day means "a day to convey love and friendship," and has been reborn as a global day recognized by people around the world. A few years ago, Pepero Day was so popular that it was mentioned in an American elementary school reference book.
The exact origins of this day are unknown. The origins are usually traced to a news story set in 1983. In the story, two female middle school students in the Yeongnam region exchanged Pepero wishing that they would both become tall and thin. However, there is some doubt about this story. Some argue that the origin was due to the shape of 1’s in the date (November 11 – 11/11) resembling Pepero sticks, while some others attribute the similarity of shapes as factors that attributed to the popularity but not its origin.
The fad spread with the idea that, for maximum effectiveness for height and thinness, one must eat 11 packets of Pepero on November 11, 11:11 am and 11:11 pm at 11 seconds exactly. From 1997, Lotte started to use the aforementioned school story to successfully promote Pepero Day. The trend led to other companies creating similarly shaped snacks to participate on Pepero Day. As of 2012[update], Lotte was making 50% of its annual sales on Pepero Day. As of 2013[update], several department stores including Hyundai Department Store, Shinsegae, and Lotte Department Store were benefiting for people celebrating the day while stores such as E-mart and Homeplus were specially displaying and selling peperos on the day.
Pepero Day has been criticized for being a business tool and a marketing strategy of certain companies, as well as for promoting unhealthy, fattening food which is contradictory to its original meaning (about becoming tall and thin). In addition, there is an opinion that it is insult to hard-working farmers, as it competes for attention with the Farmers' Day, enacted in Korea in 1996 to promote pride in farming, which also is scheduled for the same day (November 11th). Therefore, an alternative title "Garaetteok Day" has been proposed. That name, instead of pepero, promotes the exchanges of garaetteok (sticks of white tteok, a type of Korean rice cake, which unlike pepero are commonly made and sold by smaller businesses).
- Pocky & Pretz Day – a similar celebration in Japan, also held on 11 November
- Singles' Day – a somewhat similar celebration in China, also held on 11 November
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