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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Insider's Look into Lunar New Years: Seollal

(Day 1, Month 1 of the Lunar calender.) The entrance to a Korean home in North Suwon. Roosters crowed in the yard. I sensed a clash of cultures, with freeways and apartment buildings in the distance.

30-some years ago, the house was built by Tae Hun's Father and uncle. He, his Mother, Father, older brother and paternal Grandmother live together. Traditionally, the eldest son stayed with his parents and, if he married, his wife joined the household.


Korean society is paternal. Upon entering the home, I was handed this mind blowing genealogy record, stretching thousands of years. Most Koreans have records of their clan's ancestry, yet only the male's history is recorded:

Incense filled the house, and air blew in through the front door, propped open to welcome spirits. Food placed on the table like peeled apples and honey cakes were believed to come from the ancestors. Water was poured for them.

Before breakfast, we did traditional bowing. When bowing to honor the deceased, it's customary to clasp your left hand over your right, raise them to your brow, and bow down to your knees twice.

With breakfast, we drank a traditional rice beverage. The rice sat in sugar water for 16 hours before it was ready for consumption:

Breakfast is the most significant meal on Lunar New Years. The main course is dokgu: rice cake soup. When you eat it, you turn a year older. The soup consists of beef, sliced rice cakes, and pork filled dumplings. You eat your soup, and use chopsticks to take from the side dishes.

I have a sweet tooth, so the sugary items were of interest to me. Here you see dates, dried persimmons, and candies made from pine, rice and sesame:

After breakfast, we did traditional bowing for our elders. Tae Hun's Mother, Father, Grandmother, Aunts and Uncles sat before us. We were given lucky money: 20,000 W (20USD) from each.

Here, Tae Hun's Grandmother gets me money from her wallet:

Later, we drove to the countryside. An ancestral service was offered before the grave of the ancestors:

Here, Tae Hun's family prepares food to honor his grandfather who passed away in 1986. We did traditional bowing and then sat on the tarp, eating dried fish and apples as we drank rice wine.

I didn't know it at the time but one isn't supposed to venture past the foot of the coffin. I climbed the hill, over the head of the coffin, to snap this photo. In doing that, I dishonored the deceast:

A big thank you to Tae Hun and his family:

297 comments:

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Greg Santos said...

Happy birthday, Eva, and happy lunar new year!

Craig said...

Well done, Eva!

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Thanks Greg and Craig! (I'm glad your names rhyme.)

Craig- I have a busy day ahead but thank you SO much for your help and I'll reply tonight.

Gdog said...

Happy Lunar NY, Eva! You are so lucky to have had such a wonderful experience. Good job on walking over the gravesite!! ;)

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Ya, ya Gdog ; )

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