Today marks Remembrance Day back home in the UK which celebrates the brave men of the first gruelling world war. It is held on the 11th day of the 11th month with a two minute silence being observed across the country at the 11th hour which marked the end of the war as The Treaty of Versailles was signed.
Commonly in many countries around the world involved in the war a red poppy is warn to show respect for the dead and came from the popular poem “In Flanders Field”.
However like most things the 11th of November is somewhat different out here in Korea and instead of remembering the dead we look to the sweet treats created by the Japanese conglomerate Lotte with Pepero Day (빼빼로데이).
Although not an official holiday, Pepero Day has a lot in common with Valentine’s Day as it is usually observed by the younger generation and couples. Couples will give gifts of Peperos, treats, or any romantic gift to their loved ones in the hope to see them grow as slender as a Pepero.
Even though Lotte claim they did not start the day I can’t help but feel this is a true triumph in marketing, as the event has grown to be a widely celebrated event in Korea.
It is somewhat ironic that this holiday stems from a Japanese company selling Japanese sweets to Koreans, and in many ways this makes it feel more Korean. It’s true Korean culture is fascinating and full of quirky idiosyncrasies, but what makes this even more amusing to me is how Korean still has a very rocky relationship with Japan.
Although Pepero Day is all about consumerism it feels a little more open and honest than that of Valentine’s Day as the meaning of the day is so open and obvious. So have you guessed why it is observed on the 11th of the 11th yet? Well it is because the 11’s look like Pepero sticks (which means I’m sure it was Peperoageddon just a couple of years back, 11/11/11 must have been crazy).
So while most of the world remembers the valiant soldiers of the First World War we have been enjoying sweet treats in Korea. I leave you with the poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.