A Journey Across the World in Search of November Celebrations

By Catherine Kim 

With the Christmas season approaching, streets are starting to fill with the vibrant colours of Christmas. Many people, including myself, just finished compiling their Christmas playlists to enjoy the holiday spirit. The excitement in the air is rivaled only by Halloween back in October. But all that holiday spirit was not visible in the month of November. November, in between October’s Halloween and December’s Christmas, is regarded as a rather boring month in Canada. The unfortunate placement of being right between two of the most sensational celebrations of the year seems to only emphasize the gap of cheerful holidays in November (Remembrance Day is important, but it is not, and should not be, cheerful as much as it should be solemn, honourable, and reflective). Unlike Canada however, many Asian countries celebrate holidays to upkeep the cheer during this month.

November is an important month for South Koreans, especially for couples. Every November 11, South Koreans celebrate Pepero Day by giving each other Pepero, a Korean Pocky snack. Pepero is a thin pretzel stick dipped in chocolate. The resemblance of the shape of a Pepero stick to the number 1 spontaneously led November 11; (11, 11), to become Pepero Day. True to its title of a “second Valentine’s Day”, many people gather up their courage to confess their love on Pepero Day.

Behind the romantic gift ceremonies lies a rather unexpected truth of Pepero Day. Pepero Day is actually one of Korea’s most celebrated annual day-marketing events. Lotte, the company that made Pepero, cleverly thought of promoting their product through making its own annual celebration. In fact, Pepero Day is not nearly as successful for love as it is for Lotte’s bottom line – as of 2012, it was reported that 50% of Lotte’s Pepero sales were made on Pepero Day. Unlike what many people know, Pepero Day may not be so romantically idealistic after all.

Similar to South Korea’s Pepero Day, Japan also celebrates Pocky & Pretz Day every November 11. Pocky and Pretz, which are the origins of Korea’s Pepero, is a nationally loved snack in Japan. Encouraged by this national sensation, Pocky’ s company Ezekiel Glico announced November 11 to be Pocky & Pretz Day since 1999. Like Korea’s Pepero Day, it is a custom to give Pocky snacks to friends and loved ones during Pocky & Pretz Day.

November 11 is celebrated once again in China, but for completely different reasons. In China, November 11 is a day to celebrate single people. The four ones in November 11; 11 11, represent four single people standing together, hence why it is celebrated as Singles’ Day. To celebrate Singles’ Day in China, shops, restaurants, and many other institutions offer discounts to their customers. For this reason, Singles’ Day is also acknowledged as a major shopping holiday among Chinese citizens.

It is interesting to explore the diverse celebrations within cultures, with some celebrating the same ideals while others celebrate the exact opposite. The next time you find a certain month in your country to be lacking in some aspect, why not turn to other cultures and countries to learn about their diverse celebrations and events?