Monday, February 15, 2010

Seollal, Korean Lunar New Year

I finally got to see a traditional Korean holiday celebration. This weekend was Lunar New Year, known to most people outside of Korea as Chinese New Year, but known here as Seollal. We entered the year of the Tiger and left behind the year of the Ox.

Saturday evening, after a day of badly needed apartment cleaning, we went to the boyfriend's grandmother's house. Saturday evening was rather uneventful, we just watched TV and ate dinner. Watched some of the Olympics and found a movie on TV that an acquaintance of mine made an appearance in. I had no idea and it was exciting to see someone I know on TV.

In the morning, we were supposed to wake up early, but we didn't wind up getting up until 9 when someone came in and woke us up. We got dressed and went down stairs to help prepare for the ceremony. We took all sorts of food on and placed them all on this small table, as you can see. In the back, there is a small frame with some Chinese characters for the name of the family member you wish to honor. Candles and incense were lit. Then a liquor was poured for the ancestor and they bowed numerous times to the ancestor, which happened to be the boyfriend's grandfather. Then the paper was changed and they placed a paper with the boyfriend's mother's name. The boyfriend bowed again for his mother, and I joined him in bowing near the end. Then his grandmother collected one piece of each food on the table and placed it in a bowl of water. The papers with the name written on them were burned and placed into the bowl and then she disappeared out the door with the food. I never did figure out what she did with that food.

After that, we took some of the food off the table and brought it to the kitchen table where we ate breakfast. It kind of felt like Thanksgiving and I was quite stuffed after the whole meal.

After that, some friends of the family came and a cute little grandmother dressed in hanbok gave money to the boyfriend's little brother and sister after they bowed and wished her luck in the new year.

Next was a trip to the grandfather's grave. This was my second time to visit the grave. The grave is literally located on a random piece of land on the side of a mountain. There's no real path to get up there, so there's generally some bushwacking involved to get up there. In the summer, we did some maintenance to keep the grave clean from grass and weeds, but of course, in the winter, there's no need for that. When we arrived, the boyfriend's father and brother spread out the mat to bow. They threw some soju on the tomb and placed some food on the little altar by the grave. Then after that, we ate a little of the food and headed down.

Me bowing in front of the tomb.

After coming back it was nearly time for lunch again. I was still quite full from breakfast but it was time to eat ddokguk. His grandmother was a little under the weather, so the boyfriend took over in the ddokguk making. It was his first time to make ddokguk, but it turned out quite well. He varied it a little by throwing some yummy mandu in there too. Eating ddokguk is traditionally eaten in the morning, but his grandparents never really liked ddokguk, so it became a lunch thing in their household. I noticed that the grandmother didn't eat much ddokguk at all. I believe the tradition is, when you eat the ddokguk you become one year older.

ddeok is a rice cake which is commonly found in many Korean foods. It doesn't have much taste, but it's nice with other flavors. Guk just means soup. So, rice cake soup.

That was the end. We took a small nap and then headed out to the ski resort by 4:00 that day. The next post will be about the events after we arrived in Yongpyong.

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