September 30, 2010

same same... just korea (IV)

I’d like to explain a part of my absence from the blogging scene. Last week was Chuseok. Chuseok is a three day festival that the Koreans celebrate on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the lunar calendar. This year those days happened to fall in the middle of last week September 21-23. I spent my Chuseok holiday in Sokcho and Samchuk. I am planning on writing a short blab about those places in an upcoming blog.

For now however I’m gonna delve into some Same Same. Chuseok is a major Korean holiday. It is a festival celebrating the end of the harvest. Does that sound familiar? For any Canadians reading October 9th is basically the same holiday, for any yanks the date is November 22nd.

I found it pretty interesting that the Koreans celebrate a similar holiday as we do. Well at least they historically celebrate a similar holiday. Yes they celebrate Christmas and New Years, although they aren’t rooted into history. Christmas is a major commercial holiday (surprise!), and the Koreans seem to prefer to celebrate Lunar New Years over our calendar New Years.

I’ve spent my entire life on the N/A continent and I’ve always been under the impression that thanksgiving is a truly North American phenom. For some reason I was ignorant in this belief, I’m sure you could blame a lot of things for this misguided truth; I’d like to blame TV. I literally just thought Chuseok was only described as a thanksgiving type holiday because it was in the fall. I was shocked to discover the roots of Chuseok, both Thanksgiving and Chuseok are worship holidays (I think I just find anything religion related kind of shocking). The objects of worship are obviously different, but both cultures decided to worship their deity after the harvest. In N/A families usually all gather together and give thanks, in Korea families also all gather and are thankfull for the harvest. Although the Koreans go one step further, Koreans visit their ancestor’s gravesites and make them tidy.

Food is also an important element of the celebration, although both serve different animals. Most Koreans have never seen a turkey, let alone eaten it. I have a couple students that dream of tasting the giant bird, and I told them the many splendors. Koreans don’t have one animal over any other that they serve; I’d assume their tables are covered with a million side dishes (like most meals).

The special item for Korean feasts is a little honey and seed filled rice cake. A Korean rice cake is not the dried up Frisbee you are probably thinking of, a Korean rice cake is a little moist dumpling. I’m not the biggest fan of them; I find them quite doughy and tasteless despite the honey and seeds. I would much prefer to look at the dumplings that I would eat them. They are highly moldable, and come in all sorts of shapes. Traditionally they are crescent moon shaped, but things change, Turducken is hardly tradition yet it caught for ‘trendy’ southerners (I don’t know if you could ever call whoever came up with Turducken trendy, but what the hey).

I didn’t really use the holiday for its specified purpose, I used the time to act like a tourist. I arrived in Seoul on the actual Chuseok holiday (September 22) and it appeared that most of the city wasn’t celebrating or playing tourist, it was business as usual. For some reason I found this to be a comforting thought, perhaps I was happy that people weren’t celebrating with their families, I couldn’t.

1 comment:

  1. FYI: Thanksgiving isn't celebrated on a set date here in the States. Instead its celebrated on the fourth thursday in November. Also, I could not have rolled my eyes any harder when you referred to us, Americans, as yanks. I guess it happens in Anglophone countries as well. *sigh*