Posted by: rbbadger | January 24, 2009

謹賀新年

Well, the Lunar New Year is upon us again, that major holiday in Korea which makes travelling anywhere in Korea a major (and unpleasant) task, given that many Koreans are on the road.  One of the moms of one of my students referred to it (and Chuseok) as “a housewife’s hell”, given that she and all the other women in the family are tasked with helping to provide all the food for the family for a holiday which lasts three days.  The holiday begins officially tomorrow.  This means that we have Monday and Tuesday off.  While time off presents marvelous opportunities to travel, I am going to stay in the Seoul area.  The traffic between here and Busan is truly, truly awful turning what should be a four hour trip into a twelve hour one.  You have most of the country on the road, Seoul empties out and feels like a ghost town, and if the in-laws live in a different city, it makes big demands on the family just see them during the holidays.

This holiday is often referred to as Chinese New Year, but that is perhaps not the best name for it.  This is a big holiday not only in Korea, but in China and Vietnam, too.  In talking with Korean friends, I do get the impression that with the rise of Christianity in Korea, the old customs of the ancestral rites are no longer as commonly observed like they used to be.  Often the family will go to church on the day, but in many Christian homes, the practice of offering food and drink to the deceased ancestors no longer takes place.  It is my understanding that the Protestant churches typically discourage the observance of these rituals.  The early Catholic martyrs in Korea were put to death for failing to observe them, though the current Catholic bishops here have not, to the best of my knowledge, given any guidance for or against their observance.   Of course, Buddhist and many non-religiously observant families would observe these rituals.  And it is easy to forget that despite the preponderance of crosses, neon-coloured and otherwise, that this is a nation with deep Buddhist roots and that a very significant number of the population identifies themselves with Buddhism.  While the rites are more Confucian than Buddhist, most Buddhist families would observe them.  Not all of the Buddhist monks here, however, are Korean.  There are a few from the west, such as Hyeon-gak Seunim who was taught by the great Zen master Seung-sahn, a Korean Buddhist monk who spent much of his life working in the USA.  Hyeon-gak Seunim and others make frequent appearances on BTV (Buddhist Television Network) giving dharma talks in English, thus providing Buddhist teaching in English to a nation eager to learn the language.

I shall be enjoying a relaxing couple of days off, time to rest and relax from the stress of the past few weeks.  I wish you all a happy and prosperous Year of the Ox!  2009년 희망찬 한 해가 되시길 바랍니다!

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Responses

  1. Have a Happy Housewife’s Hell! 🙂


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