November 15, 2012 by travelinggrits
On 11/11, Korea celebrates a moderate version of Valentine’s Day inspired by the Korean snack 빼빼로 (Pepero), a slender shortbread stick dipped in chocolate. Boxes of the common varieties (chocolate, strawberry, almond, nude) were only about 800 won (less than a dollar) at the local supermarket. Local convenience stores sold larger packages, and the bakery offered gourmet handmade varieties and even long cakes decorated like Pepero.
Pepero Day fell on a Sunday, but the Friday before I noticed students carrying bags of the snack as I walked with them to school. I had planned to distribute some to my co-workers on Monday, so as I watched the parade of Pepero go by I felt awkward and unprepared with my hands empty.
Until one of my students called my name and presented me with a package of Pepero, hand-dipped, and carefully sealed in a plastic baggie decorated with hearts.
My walk to school immediately brightened; I had a grin on my face and a bounce in my step.
In my first class, I had several boys come forward and present me with boxes, some with hearts and messages scrawled on the back. I think I mortified a few by asking for a picture.
The flood Pepero ebbed after the morning sugar rush. And yes, I did have some students boasting to me about the number of boxes they had received, smugly carrying armfuls on the playground.
But for a girl who never had a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day in middle school… I still felt like it went much better this time around.