Ever stopped to ponder the shape of numbers in a date? If this seems like a nonsense question, then you have obviously never worked as a marketeer for the Lotte brand! Yes, it’s that time of year again, a time for giving, a time for expressing love, a time for sharing… no, not Christmas silly! It’s Pepero Day of course!
11.11 (and this year 11.11.11) looks like a big yummy row of Pepero sticks, and it’s no coincidence that Pepero Day falls on this date! The clever peeps at Lotte created this day as a commercial haven to maximise sales of their yummy and cute snack. In particular, couples are the target market, with heart-covered Pepero boxes on sale weeks before the day in question. But unlike Valentine’s Day and White Day, everyone can join in! This is a great day if you are a teacher, for example, as your students will no doubt shower you with the 1-shaped treats! 😉
Pepero is definitely one of my favourite snacks. Its Japanese cousin Pocky is better-known over here in the UK, and a suspiciously similar line (no pun intended) has taken off in the form of the Mikado brand. You can’t beat the Korean Lotte version though (true PEPERO!) It comes in many varieties, and I personally can’t get enough of the chocco-filled (rather than chocco-dipped) variety.
Er, hang on a second. What am I doing analysing variations of chocolate sticks on a post about 11.11? You see, in the UK, this date has a far deeper meaning.
To us, it is Remembrance Day, a precious day of great pride and importance for British people, where we take time to remember the end of World War 1 and honour our armed forces and ex-service people. These days, it is more commonly known as Poppy Day. The red poppy flower has become our symbol of remembrance, and is donned by TV celebrities, sports personalities and pop stars, as well as people from all walks of life.
Every year, poppies and wreaths are laid at war memorials across the UK, after the Queen has rested the first wreath at a national ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. Numerous memorial services are also held in churches across the land. As a mark of respect, at 11am on 11.11, a two-minute silence is observed by the entire nation. This year, the special significance of 188.8.131.52 will be represented with a huge cardboard poppy formation of the numerical time and date.
If you feel a bit awkward reading about the fun and consumerism of Pepero Day contrasted with the seriousness and poignancy of Remembrance Day, then rest assured that you are not alone. This is the exact feeling that hit me when I lived in Korea, and first encountered Pepero Day. I wondered how I was to observe the marks of respect that Remembrance Day deserves.
Firstly, it’s important to realise that there is nothing disrespectful going on here, just a coincidence of 2 very different ‘days’ occurring simultaneously. Most Koreans aren’t aware that November 11th has any other special meaning, and one of the reasons I am writing this post is to spread awareness of what it means to British people.
As well as this, there is nothing wrong with having fun on Remembrance Day, and no-one suggests otherwise. As long as respect, honour and remembrance are retained, there is no reason to feel guilty for buying a box of Pepero for someone you love, or for eating your favourite snack- especially if Korea is close to your heart, and you have cherished memories of nervous students sweetly presenting you with your special Pepero gift.
Finally, and returning to the theme of ‘the shape of numbers in a date’, it has come to my attention that The Guardian newspaper have jumped on the bandwagon! A new campaign claims that 11.11.11 will be Corduroy Day! Yes, you’ve guessed it, because 11.11.11 looks like a big row of corduroy. A bit slow off the mark guys, but yeh, we see it!
- The Poppy Appeal is a charity that supports the British service and ex-service communities. Here’s the link if you want to make a donation.