Friday, October 2, 2009

It's a Chuseok Miracle!

Today was the first day since we've been in Korea that we allowed ourselves to wake up naturally without setting an alarm.  It was very nice.  I woke up at about 10:15.

We doddled around the apartment for a bit, washed our sheets (you have to let them dry all day) and ate breakfast.  Then we went out for a run.  We decided to go over to this little park that we can see from our window.  From our window we can see a green patch and a gazebo, so we figured it was a little nature park.  When we got there it turned out that there wasn't much nature to run in, but that there was a little family park with a small track attached to it.  It was so nice to run in a place filled with other active people.  It reminded me of neighborhood parks or even college campuses at home.  I think we have a new running place.  Plus, though the track isn't ideal (it's more like slightly padded cement), it's still better than the asphalt on which we've been running.

When we got back we went to Lotte Mart because we were running low on groceries.  Because Chuseok is tomorrow, there were about twice as many people in the store.

Including this couple who thought to themselves "Gee, we like each other a lot, maybe we should dress like each other, too!"  The girl is pushing the cart and the guy is standing next to it.  They're probably close to Ian and my age.  Only their shoes were different.

Hershey's seems to have exploded in Korea.  I Googled it, but found nothing that made me understand why we couldn't find it two weeks ago and now we can find it all over the place. (from left to right: Hershey's with almonds, Hershey's nuggets of various flavors, and Hershey's Kisses)

As I've mentioned, Chuseok is all about the gift pack.  Pretty much anything that you can buy in a grocery store here is available in gift pack.

Rice cakes are some of the gift packs that make the most sense to me, but you can also buy fresh meat, produce, and canned goods like Spam to give as gifts, too. I couldn't get a picture of the Spam.  Maybe Lotte Mart was sold out, because normally they are everywhere you turn.  Feel free to Google "Korea Spam gift pack" if you're curious.

Now for our Chuseok miracle.

Real cheese!  Ironically, we would reject this terrible excuse for sharpness in the states, much preferring Tillamook or something less mass produced.  But, in Korea we are MORE THAN HAPPY to eat this.  I mean, look how happy he is.

So, naturally, we made nachos and mexi-veggies for dinner.  It was delicious.  Though, the amazing mexi-veggies (made with a jalapeno pepper's Korean cousin) were so good that they over shadowed the cheese a bit.

So, we're going over to Chun wha's tomorrow for the equivalent of a Chuseok after party.  I thought I'd tell you a bit about the holiday.  I'm going to try to do this one without doing anymore internet research.  Let's see how much I've learned from living here.

Chuseok is Korea's harvest festival.  It's also called Hangawi and a few other things as well.  All of it's names refer to "Great Middle," though I'm not sure why, as it's not considered the middle of the year.  It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar.  Expat's often refer to it as Korean Thanksgiving, and that's pretty accurate.  Chuseok is about food, family, and having a good time, just like it's American cousin.  However, Chuseok has a memorial aspect to it, as well.  The eve is traditionally used to visit one's ancestral  tombs and to pay homage.  There is a specific, sorrowful bow used for this.  One gets on their knees before the grave and bows forward until their head is on or near the ground, arms stretched in front of them.  Food offerings are given (sometimes on tables at home, or at the site itself) and incense is burned.

Another main difference between American Thanksgiving and Chuseok is gift giving.  Gift giving is common for Chuseok and the gifts usually reflect the fact that it is a harvest holiday.  People commonly gives packs of apples and other food.  Gift packs are sometimes used to give a group of people a gift to share.

Hanbok's were traditional Chuseok attire for a great while, but they've fallen out of style.  This is probably because they are uncomfortable and difficult to maneuver.  I can't imagine cooking in one.  Chuseok has changed in other ways, too.  Because it often extends a weekend (three days are given for this holiday, though this year, two are on a weekend), more and more Koreans are using this holiday for travel abroad instead of staying home.  Also, there are some people that give offerings to their deceased love ones via internet sites that allow for a person to participate emotionally and symbolically.  It is more common for people to hire companies to care for grave sites and tombs now.  Korean's lives have become more industrial only recently (within the last 20 years or so), so these changes, though inevitable, are pretty new.

Other than that, the holidays are pretty similar.  The women cook and the men and children play games or watch t.v.  They eat all day and enjoy the company of their families.  It's easy for foreigners to feel homesick during this time.

Maybe I'll learn more about the holiday on a personal level tomorrow.  I'll be sure to let you all know.  I'll take as many pictures as possible, but we will be in their home, so I'll have to be careful not to intrude.

Have an excellent Friday.  I know ours was good.


  1. Mmm.. Nachos!
    Can't wait to hear about tomorrow.

  2. Nice, you guys found Cheese. Even that cheese looked better than Ian's,:) Hope your Nachos were good. Found that Lotte and Hersey's teamed up in late 2007 to manufacture Hersey's for Asia. Must be why you are seeing more of it. Enjoy the Holiday and have a great three day weekend.

  3. Yay, cheese another protein sourse. You both look so happy to have found it. Thanks for all the information on chuesok. It is fun to learn of other cultures holidays and celebrations. How wonderful it is that you get to be a part of Chun Wah's family celebration, even if it is the after party. I will be excited to hear about it.
    By the way it is funny how you are excited to make more traditional North American meals and I am excited to make Asian or Indian meals. But that probably has to do with the fact that I can find cheese and most everything American by opening my refrigerator. Today I made miso soup.

  4. MMMmmmm, cheese. Even the bad stuff is better than nothing. I'm enjoying learning more about Korean culture and how you are experiencing it.

    Spam gift baskets? Your dad would probably love one of those, Ian.