Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lunar New Year!

I know it is late but it happens.
The Korean Lunar New Year, also known as Seollal, changes in dates of celebration but follows after New Year's Day. This year the date was February 15th and a filled day it was. Being invited to the day before, to prepare for Lunar New Year, and the actual celebration day--it inevitably reminded me of holiday celebrations back home.

The day before was filled with women in the kitchen cooking and chatting, while the men lazed about occasionally getting up to take out the trash or go pick something up at the store. My boss Juno however, spent most of the day at the pool hall, "he is still young" said his mother (as her husband happily takes on the duties of garbage and pick up man, not to mention babysitter). At this point I am thinking in my head three kids in and wearing layers of long john's because my boss claims he is old, makes me a bit irritated. But as I could go into stereotypical references on the women and men dispositions of kitchen ethics I, all in all, will toss aside to acknowledge that in a very loving way I enjoy this process; a kinship of women hood to say the least but a time in any that can teach you much on who and how you are. And if not that, than definitely on the establishments of roles.

OK, back on the holiday, so as this day ends we all head home to get to bed early for everyone has to wake up and be at the grandparents house at 9 am on Lunar New Year Day. Now if you could only read my face as I type this, because even though the time has passed the dreading feeling of having to wake up and be socially apt in a circumference of smiling faces, kids, and only a few people who can speak English--isn't exactly my picturesque morning, however, "de-grudging" (that's right a made my own word) the morning blues I drank my Café Americano and in my very comfortable white long silk shirt, black leggings, and black boots (ideal outfit for a lazy have-to morning) I put on my smile and realized I will stand out no matter what I do. As we walked in I noticed almost every person in black and thought great, as we settle in to the house
my boss Yuri looks at me to say "you look cold because you are wearing white" and I proceeded to look at her and made a comment that broke her out in laughter followed by a short hug (she is not so comfortable with showing affection or hugging but I got one ;).

Once all of the family strolls in the house the oldest line up in sitting formation while the rest of us have to bow in gratitude. And this holiday is incredibly important if not one of the most anticipated of celebrations. Forget what the texts say because even though all look forward to it, the only ones that really love it--are the kids. The women are not too fond of it due to the fact they have to do everything from cleaning to cooking, the men dig it for it's just another day to be catered to and watch sports and oh, how the kids love it. Besides the young one's having to dress in their traditional Hanbok's (traditional dress) it is the one holiday where the children bank. Every bow elicits 10 to 30 thousand won in their hands, and imagine there are about 20 adults in the room each one having to give money to each kid. And then the kids are more than joyous to head to their other family's house's to continue to get more money. AND if you are graduating into middle school or what not, YOU get even MORE money. One of my students made 650, 000 won! I was flabbergasted to say the least.

After the bowing--comes food time but not quite ready to eat, before eating we must bow to the food and be thankful. Once everyone is done showing all their appreciation to the shrine of food, the showcase of eatables is sent back into the kitchen to then get spread out onto long and low tables. Men sit and begin to eat first, starting the intake with shots of Soju (Korean Alcohol); men sit on one end of tables, in the middle kids and young adults, and then women on the other end.

After this came clean up, watching the soccer game and teaching some peeps how to play the card game, Rumi 500. And instead of gallivanting with my boss's and their kids to other family's house's I pleasantly stayed behind and went to a Buddhist temple to hang out with some monks. Me, my boss's mother, sister, and cousin from Australia (she's visiting) sat with the monks and received money, expansive teas, talks, and the golden ticket for luck ;). We stayed for about two and half hours, and for the second time, whom I will label my friend the monk, gave me a second book on Buddhism: "this will be good for you." Now, mind you I believe in God and I am a Christian, BUT I do think religion has hurt many people and still hurting us today--controlled by ego and power--I would nevertheless shun anything attributed to learning. I accepted the book and began a very interpretive discussion (the monk can't speak English so hand gestures and facial expressions were a must, and major kudos to my boss's sister without her the talk would have been even more limiting). I understand that Buddhism is not a religion it is a way of life and is very similar to what God says; the high monk tells me. "No matter what religion, we must all love ourselves and our fellows."

The day ended with everyone from the morning back at the grandparent's house--to eat, play games, and watch soccer--I was in heaven right here. Me, and some members went out for pool and a drink BUT below I will leave you with some Lunar New Year pictures--cheers!

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