Happy Pepero Day from Korea! If you’re not familiar with this special day, it’s one in which people exchange Peperos (chocolate sticks) with their loved ones, kind of like Easter without the religion. According to reports, the celebration started because people believed if you partook in the Pepero celebration, you would become taller and thinner, especially if you ate your Peperos at exactly 11:11 on November 11th- 11:11, on the 11th day of the 11th month. And if you’re really superstitious, you should make sure you eat the Peperos 11 seconds after 11:11, for the ultimate thinning/ heightening effect. Eating loads of chocolate to make you taller and thinner? I like that kind of logic!
Last year, our first year here, the holidays took us by surprise in Korea: why were we given tons of Peperos on one day? Why apples another? Why is there loads of Valentine’s-looking stuff in the shops in March? Now it’s our second year, we know what to expect, and what holidays we can look forward to. Here are some of the special days celebrated in Korea (take note Westerners, we should make these catch on back home…)
White Day (14th March)
A second Valentine’s Day, kind of. On Valentine’s Day, it is traditional in Korea for women to give men a gift. Then, one month later on White Day (March 14th), it is the man’s turn to give a gift. If you’re a romantic, you’d see this as a lovely way to prolong the holiday and increase celebrations. If you’re a cynic, you’d see it as even more of a commercial gimmick than Valentine’s Day already is…
Black Day (14th April)
A day for single people, on the 14th April, one month after Valentine’s-type celebrations have finished. Single people celebrate by eating a black-coloured meal of Jajangmyeon (noodles with black soybean sauce). A good excuse to treat yourself to a delicious meal, at any rate.
Teacher’s Day (15th May)
A personal favourite, obviously! It was a nice surprise when we came in one day to have children giving us gifts and kind notes. Oh, and the song they had prepared to perform for the teachers. A well-deserved celebration of teachers, and one I think teachers all over the world should be able to enjoy!
Apple Day (24th October)
A slightly random, but nonetheless enjoyable day: give an apple to people you want to apologize to. The Korea word for ‘apple’ is ‘사과’ which also means to apologize, hence giving an apple as a token.
Children’s Day (5th May)
There’s still a Parent’s Day in Korea, the equivalent of Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day. But in Korea, there is also a day to show appreciation for your children! Children are given gifts and taken to exciting places like the zoo, or a theme park. I would have loved such a day when I was young; it would be like an extra Christmas Day- what could be better?
Korean New Year (1st January on the Lunar Calendar)
New Year’s Day is usually a pretty rubbish day in England: Christmas is officially over, people are tired/ hungover, and worse, feel like they have to start their New Year’s Resolutions, which generally leaves everyone feeling grumpy. In Korea, it’s a pretty good time- three days of festivities in fact. The best part for children? Sebeh: when children wish older people ‘Happy New Year’ by bowing to them, and in return are given money. Imagine how much you could make if you bowed to every older person on that day… sounds like the children get a good deal, that’s for sure!
I think that Korea have got it right with their holidays, and England could do with a few more random gift-giving days. What brightens up your day like getting a few apples or some chocolate sticks? And nothing would improve a gloomy January 1st more than getting some money. Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that England catches on to these ideas soon…
Re: Happy Pepero Day & A Look at Korea’s Special Days
Good roundup of some of the Korea-specific and more unusual holidays here. But, for anyone not living in Korea, it might be helpful to also include the date (or, in some of the cases, around the date since it changes every year) these fall.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.