Wednesday, February 01, 2017

4N5D at the Countryside in Korea

This whole weekend was packed full of happenings and events.

On Thursday, my mom and I took the bus to the countryside to visit my paternal grandmother. It's custom to pay a visit to your paternal grandparents for Lunar New Year's Day here in Korea. After driving for around 4 hours (with a 15 minute break in between when you can go to the toilet or buy something to eat at the rest stop) we've finally arrived in Damyang (that's the city's name). Part of my relatives had already arrived, so we greeted each other heartily first since it's been a while we've seen one another. For the rest of the day, we've stayed mostly at home, reposing and taking a nap.

The following day, it began to get busy. We've had to prepare for New Year's Day which would be on Saturday, so there was a lot to do before that. Let me explain: In Korea, New Year's Day isn't celebrated the way it is in the Western world. No, wait, let me correct it. Of course there are fireworks and such, but that's only the case for New Year's Eve which is - like you all know- on January 1st. However, according to the moon calendar (yielding a more significant role in some parts of the Eastern world), New Year's Day is also considered a day to honor your ancestors. Hence, the family has to set up a table full of offerings. Don't worry, it's not like we slaughter animals for this. The offerings consist mostly of fruits, rice (cakes), side dishes, hot pancakes made of vegetables or meat and soju (an alcoholic beverage). It differs from household to household what and how you put it on your table. Either way, we were busy to prepare the food for almost the whole day. Usually it's the women's job to make it, but that's fine by me because my younger cousin and I got to 'test-taste'. Almost forgot to mention it but the second part of my relatives arrived that day, wherefore the house felt really crowded.

At last, the first day of the new year started. We all woke up pretty early and before we began to eat breakfast, my family took turns to honor our ancestors. Normally we go in the hierarchic order. That's to say that my father and my brother would have been the first ones (because my father is the first son and my brother the first son of the first son) but since they weren't there, my uncles were the first ones to bow down in front of the table with the offerings. Another thing I've neglected to say was that we've prepared 13 bowls of rice cake soup. Why? Well, to honor the 13 generations before us - truly awesome right? Eventually it was my turn to bow down 2 1/2 times (don't ask why it has to be 2 1/2 times, I don't know either). Afterwards, we began to eat 'breakfast' which can be translated to 'We ate the offerings'. I'm not the type to eat much - not to mention rice - in the morning (cereals and bread for the go!) but due to the fact that the consumption of the offerings are a part of the ritual, I had no choice but to eat some (it was tasty though). My cousins and I also received good-luck-money. In the afternoon, we drove to the gravesite of my ancestors and my grandpa and did the same ritual.

Sunday was spent mostly individually. Some of my relatives visited their other relatives who live in the same city, some relaxed and I explored the environment. For example, I went inside the bamboo forest which is famous for being the background for some movies, walked alongside the river and paid a visit to 'Petite Provence' (it's like the French version of Chinatown). All in all, it was a fun day and we all went to dinner together.

The last day was spent bundling up our stuff and then it was time to say goodbye. This time, I wasn't as sad as the previous times because we would see each other again in March to celebrate the 80th birthday of my grandma.

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