November is THE time to go shopping – there’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and of course, Singles Day 11.11. So what does ‘Single’s Day’ have to do with a massive shopping festival, and what does it have to do with snacks in South Korea and Japan?
Singles and snack wars
You’d have to rewind back to the 1980s to get the story behind 11.11 because it has very different origins and meanings depending on which country you’re talking about: Japan, Korea or China.
China: Single’s Day
November 11 became known as ‘Single’s Day’ back in 1993 when Nanjing University students picked 11/11 – since ‘1’ means single – to celebrate bachelor life. Some celebrate the day by eating youtiao (fried dough fritters) because they looked like the number ’11’, but they found that munching on a bit of dough doesn’t feel as good as spending their dough on a good ol’ shopping spree.
It doesn’t take long until Alibaba capitalised on this shopping trend – they created ‘Singles Day’ in 2009 with discounts known as ‘Double 11’ (‘双十一’), which they trademarked on December 28, 2012. Single’s Day is now the world’s biggest shopping event, and you don’t have to be single to spend money.
Japan & Korea: Pocky Day & Pepero Day
November 11 is also ‘Pocky Day’ in Japan and ‘Pepero Day’ in South Korea. Their origin lies in the breadstick jousting between two snack companies: Glico (from Japan) and Lotte (from Korea). Glico first created Pocky in 1966, but had its idea stolen by Lotte in 1983 which went on to enjoy huge success in South Korea with Pepero.
When Lotte launched Pepero, they created the ‘Pepero Day’ – as you guessed it, on 11.11 – to market their chocolate sticks. The story goes that school girls would give each other Pepero in the hopes of becoming tall and thin like the snack itself. The formula: eat 11 packets of Pepero at exactly 11 seconds past 11:11 am and 11:11 pm on November 11th. Of course, this diet plan isn’t scientifically proven, but it became so popular that 11.11 became officially known as ‘Pepero Day’ in South Korea in 1997.
Not to be outdone by their copycats, Glico copied their rival’s model and made 11.11 ‘Pocky Day’ in 1999. In the Japanese calendar, 1999 is the 11th year of Heisei, thus November 11 in 1999 was actually 11.11.11.
Glico came up with a plan to blitz the idea that “my chocolate breadstick is better than your chocolate breadstick” by setting about a record breaking attempt of the “Most mentions of a brand name on Twitter in 24 hours” which they achieved in 2012 and 2013.
Today, both ‘Pocky Day’ and ‘Pepero Day’ are celebrated by… eating Pepero and Pocky, of course.
How to shop or savour 11.11
Technically, celebrating 11.11 as a special day was started by the South Koreans for Pepero back in the 1980s, but it’s China’s Single’s Day shopping festival (since 2009) that people are more familiar with these days.
You can take advantage of great deals online by participating in Single’s Day sales – most of these events stretch across a few days. Shop for deals on Taobao’s TMall (which literally created this shopping festival) or Ezbuy (for English version). AliExpress has deals up to 70% (play games to win coupons and additional discounts). Lazada has vouchers, $11 deals, bank discounts, and branded boxes. Shopee has 30% cashbacks, 70% discounts, and bank discounts. Zalora has flash deals up to 80% off. Q10 has daily time sales, $1 treats, and free giveaways.
You can also do what South Koreans do on ‘Pepero Day’ – it’s evolved into a major event that’s sort of like an autumnal Valentine’s Day where people would buy their crushes (or loved ones) Peperos. Or you can celebrate it the Japanese way by playing the ‘Pocky Kiss‘ – just substitute the spaghetti with a Pocky stick from the famous scene in Lady and the Tramp.
What would you be doing this 11.11?