Today is a special holiday in Korea. It's Least-Likely-To-Get-Hit-By-A-Car Day! And, may I just say, woo-hoo! Actually, it's Lunar New Year, which, as Sam mentioned last post, is a big deal in South Korea. For us, it's a long weekend. For the rest of the country, it's a major holiday. Everything is closed, and everyone is home with their families. Which means going for a walk in Chungju has never been safer. ;)
How do Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year? The number one job for women is making food. Number two is washing dishes. (Not surprisingly, my female coworkers were less than hepped about the holiday season.) Kids kowtow to adults in exchange for money; elementary school kids usually get about 10,000 won from each adult, while middle schoolers rake in 20-30,000, and high schoolers clear 50,000 (or almost $50.00). The oldest man in the room also receives a considerable amount of bowing, by virtue of his honored status.
But the main event of the day is the honoring of ancestors. A table is loaded with food as a ritualistic offering to the departed. The entire family bows and prays before it. Then they eat, symbolically sharing the meal with previous generations. There are dozens of dishes, but a traditional staple of the meal is ddeokguk, rice cake soup (which is delicious, by the way).
Lunar New Year is when Koreans bust out the hanbok, or traditional clothes. These are invariably in bright, jewel colors, with belled sleeves and long, wide skirts for the women. I think they're beautiful. My Korean friends call them inconvenient--how are you supposed to cook with your sleeves dangling in all the dishes?
After all the bowing and eating is finished, the kids often play yunori. It's a board game along the lines of Trouble, except instead of popping a plastic dice bubble, you throw a bunch of sticks in he air. Historically a winter game, played by farmers in the off-season, it's now traditionally associated with Lunar New Year. This is not surprising, judging by how well games where kids throw stuff tend to work out. They're probably trying to limit the damage to a single day.
At the end of the day, the extended family heads back to their respective homes, and my window of sidewalk safety ends. So, if you'll excuse me, it's time I head outside. Happy New Year. :)