Thursday, 3 February 2011

Happy New Year! Is Korean Seollal Changing?

Happy new year, readers.

It's a good day, the weather's finally not so bone-chilling, and the wife is away on vacation.

Not that I'm up to any mischief... I wouldn't be here blogging if I were, now, would I?

Since I've come to Korea, one of the things I've noticed is a big change in how the Korean traditional holidays (that is, Seollal/Lunar New Year) and Chuseok (Harvest festival) are practiced.

The typical/normative Korean Traditional Holiday(tm) experience remains that of going to the grandparents' house, having a ritual for the ancestors that involves big tables full of traditional foods that take a long time to prepare and clean up, the women spending hours in the kitchen, the men playing cards or games in the other room, and the consuming of chapchae, ddeokkuk (new year) and songpyeon (chuseok).  Grandparents give money to the children, and the children bow to the living ancestors (parents, uncles, especially grandparents) and some or all of the family goes up the mountain to trim the grass and perform maintenance on the family gravesite.  And the children wear really cute Hanbok.

Frankly, I'm not the guy to describe all those ceremonies.  The Korean does an admirable job of it.

I'm interested in the way the holiday's changed: my first year in Korea, Seoul was a ghost town during the new year celebration.  The usual complaints were raised: traffic is a pain, it's impossible to get tickets,  the women do all the work, it's boring sitting around at your grandparents' house all day.

Meanwhile, this year Seoul's museums are staying open, and a lot of the palaces and plazas are featuring cultural events, displays and performances this Seollal.  People are traveling overseas instead of visiting the family.  Meanwhile, a recent survey reports that only one in five Koreans consider their grandparents part of their family.

Tonight's topic on TBS eFM is the ways we celebrate Seollal/Lunar New Year: what do you do, and is it different than it used to be?  It's a holiday, so we're picking a happy topic, and I'd love to hear from readers, how do YOU celebrate the new year?  Have travel concerns changed the way you celebrate? Have you spent holidays away from family? Why?  Have you ever attended the cultural events instead?Whether you're Korean or not, we'd love to hear what you get up to on Korea's traditional holidays.

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