Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Join us in Korea!

You all remember my friend Nut, right? Well guess what she's back! This time to share Christmas in Korea. She and her family just recently got home (as in this past year) from a 4 year (sorry Nut it felt a lot longer but it was only 4, right?) term as missionaries on the Korean island of Jeju. I know she gets "homesick" fo rthe island often but being the trooper she is she put together a little peek at Christmas in Korea for us!

South Korea is a Buddhist and Shamanist country. Because of this, Christmas, in the past has held no great meaning for them. It was and in many cases, still is, just another day in the lives of most Koreans. In the past 100 years Christianity has spread throughout South Korea which brought with it, a small Christmas celebration. There is no large present exchange or tons of parties. You won't see Santa on every street corner or nativities placed throughout the town. However, on Christmas Day you will see that all the Christian Churches are open for a special worship services. They usually meet for an early morning prayer time (at about 5 am). Then they come back together for a worship service at 10. They break for lunch and fellowship and continue with a second worship service around 2 pm.

Every year that we were there, we did see more and more in the lines of Christmas decorations. Stores might have a small Christmas Tree or Snowman in the window. The International Wal-mart actually had fake Christmas Trees for sale. The town center will often decorate the trees with lights now. However, they still don't pause to celebrate on Christmas day.

If you wait a month or so, Koreans celebrate one of their two largest holidays of the year. Seol-ral or the Korean Lunar New Year (more commonly known as Chinese New Year) is a 3 day celebration. Koreans will travel to their home town where the entire family will meet for a celebration!

On the first day of celebration the Koreans will all dress in their tradition hanboks. They then perform a ceremony honoring their ancestors. After the ceremony at home, the entire family will drive to the grave site of their ancestors and perform a public ceremony honoring them. They then have a picnic at the grave. The traditional food eaten is dok-guk. It is a rice-cake soup that is absolutely delicious. They will leave soup, rice, and wine at the grave for the ancestors as they leave.

Children will bow to their elders as a sign of respect and in return they are given white envelopes filled with money. The adults often exchange gifts of well-being. The gifts they exchange are much more practical than the ones we exchange. They will give gift baskets of fruits and vegetables. It is common to see gifts boxes of spam, dove bar soap, socks, handkerchiefs, tissue, juice boxes, and other items used on a daily basis. Families will often spend the days playing tradition games such as yut and nol-twigi or go flying kites.

Seol-ral actually begins on Jan. 29 and continues through the first day of the new month. It is a time of the year that families look forward to all year long, much like we do for Christmas

And now I have a craving to go fly a kite myself! Especially with Mary Poppins playing in the background! Thank you again Nut for rescuing me from bloggy boredom.

For those of you playing along, I do believe our next stop is Japan (possibly this evening) and then to Australia tomorrow.