Korea’s most important holiday begins February 13 and will last three days. The trains will be full of new lunar-year celebrants traveling to their hometowns to spend the Lunar New Year with their families. The trains are the best avenue of transportation as they will run on time. Only those who bought tickets at least a month in advance will be able to ride the trains as they are filled to capacity. Buses and cars will cram the highways and interstates as drivers and passengers encounter traffic jams galore and experience the frustration of stop-and-go driving. The trip via car will take the passengers twice as long to arrive at their destination as during normal times. It takes four hours normally to drive from Seoul to Busan; during Seollal it will take eight hours. Some parents will offer to come to Seoul to celebrate the lunar holiday to save their children the exhausting trip home. Regardless of the difficulty in traveling to their homes the Korean family will find a way to be together on this most important holiday. The weather forecast for Saturday, February 13, is partly cloudy with snow flurries earlier in the week with little accumulation. This small hindrance will not effect the determined population in fulfilling their appointment to celebrate Seollal with their departed loved ones, precious parents, brothers, sisters, children, aunts and uncles. The White Tiger will not appear again for another sixty-years, so enjoy. Click the hyperlink for A larger picture of the White Tiger.
The year of the White Tiger will be celebrated by feasting on traditional Korean foods, playing traditional Korean games, and honoring (worshiping) Korean ancestors who are said to come back at Seollal to make an appearance. A table of food and drink are prepared for the visiting spirits. Tradition & ritual specify the types of food and drink that are appropriate for this sacred occasion. It is important to display the many dishes and fruit properly upon the table that is set before the altar. Size, color, and quality of the offering are standardize as well.
At the head of the altar decorated frames hold the photographs of the deceased parents where family members bow and weep openly and unashamedly. It is at this time that family members pray for blessings to be bestowed upon them by their departed loved ones throughout the next year. After the ceremony it is time to eat and enjoy their new year feast with gusto.
After eating, washing the dishes, and tiding-up a little the older members of the family sit behind a table as the children come in and bow respectfully in their honor. After bowing they arise and go forward to receive gifts of money from each seated senior member of the family. The children are rewarded for their obedience and look forward with excitement and enthusiasm to this part of the ceremony. When this fun part of the ceremony ends, traditional Korean games begin. Quote from Wikipedia: “The traditional family board game Yutnori (윷놀이) is still a popular pastime. Traditionally men and boys would fly kites and play jegi chagi (제기차기), a game where a light object is wrapped in paper or cloth, and then kicked in a Hacky Sack like manner. Korean women and girls would have traditionally played neolttwigi (널뛰기), a game of jumping on a seesaw (시소), while children spun peng-i (팽이).”
This year I’ll be staying home while my wife goes to her family in Seoul by bus, about 1 1/2 hours away from our apartment in Pyeongnae. She will stay overnight and most likely return the next day on Sunday; so that is the plan for now, but she might stay longer. She has prepared several ready to eat meals for me before she left. She is looking forward to the celebration with much anticipation and will have to change buses several times on her way to her oldest brothers house to celebrate. As a Korean woman she will be busy helping with any final preparations and other household duties throughout the day, plus peeling and slicing apples and other fruit as snacks for the men, children, and any friends who might pop over to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I don’t worry about her because she will have plenty of time to enjoy full participation in all the new year activities.
My wife loves playing Hwatu with her family. Hwatu is also called the flower card game because of all the different flowers on each card that make up the deck. The small cards are thick and sturdy, allowing each player to throw down the card enthusiastically upon a folded flannel cloth with a thud. There is much vocal expression and bantering among the players during the game, most in fun, but on rare occasions the fun gets out of hand and a player becomes upset. Hwatu players don’t stay upset for long, and the game resumes as if nothing ever happened. To me, Koreans are very forgiving of character imperfection within families, which bolds well for me. My wife went to the store to buy some coffee for me because she’s afraid I might run out. Korean women are like that. With that I’ll close for today.
Wayfaring Stranger: garland dale