By: Jessica Carnabuci, Autumn McLeod
Jaeni Lee covered chocolate-covered pretzels with colorful icing and sprinkles to make Pepero sticks for her boyfriend Robert Cho.
“It’s just a custom in Korea to make Pepero, or buy Pepero, and exchange it with your friends or your loved ones to just celebrate and have a good time,” Lee said.
The pretzels, icing, and various toppings sat delicately on top of each table in Ballroom B of the Student Activities Center at Stony Brook University.
Students created Pepero sticks in order to celebrate an unofficial romantic holiday called Pepero Day.
The Korean Student Association (KSA) held its second annual Pepero Day event on Tuesday, the day before the actual holiday, where students were able to make cards and Pepero Sticks for significant others and friends.
The event was held on Tuesday and not Wednesday because that is when KSA usually has their general body meetings, Pavaris Ketavanan, Vice President of KSA, said.
Pepero Day is celebrated in Korea and is similar to how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the United States. It is usually observed on November 11th.
“Couples will kind of exchange Pepero and cards for each other,” Ketavanan said.
Valentine’s Day has a different meaning in Korea than it does in the United States. In Korean Valentine’s Day, girls are supposed to give candy to boys, Jiwon Hwang, a professor in the Korean Studies department at Stony Brook said.
There are also other holidays that are similar to Valentine’s Day. For example, White Day is a holiday where boys are supposed to give chocolate to girls, Hwang said.
However on Pepero Day, people are supposed to exchange Pepero sticks to show their affection for each other, either romantically or platonically.
This holiday hasn’t always been as popular as it is now, Hwang said, and she doesn’t remember it being around when she was growing up.
“People are creative and they come up with new things to celebrate,” Hwang said. “It’s something casual and fun and people are kind of nurtured in the kind of culture where they could be showing their affection to people or friendship to other people, so I think that’s good.”
The date that the holiday is celebrated on is illustrative of certain aspects of the day.
“It’s usually celebrated on 11/11 because they kind of represent the Pepero sticks,” Ketavanan said.
The origins of Pepero Day are disputed. Lotte, a corporation that operates in the food, retail, and chemical sectors in Japan is the creator of the chocolate covered Pepero treat, but doesn’t take credit for starting the holiday, according to the website Cute in Korea. However, the company has noticed a huge increase in sales every November when Pepero Day occurs.
The event went down as a success for KSA. “I’m really proud of the turnout this year. It seems like they’re really trying hard to make it something bigger and make it something more important,” James Kho, last year’s president of KSA, said.
Seventy to one hundred students were expected to come to their event, which was a step up from last year.
“Last year’s was actually much smaller, and we had it in a classroom setting,” Jeong Lee, a junior representative for KSA, said.
“This time we had it in a ballroom, which is much bigger, so people have more space and we have more tables so people can make whatever they want. There’s more space for people to socialize, so I thought this was a good idea and we went through with it.”