Sunday, February 14, 2010

Seollal with my new family

Today was Valentine's Day, yes, but it was also the Korean Lunar New Year (설날), which is one of the two most important holidays in this country. Usually Koreans will travel to their hometowns, to the "Big House" (큰집) which is the house of the oldest male relative of the family. In Min Gi's case, this is his uncle's house, although his uncle passed away even before Min Gi's father did, so now his "big" aunt (KeunOhmma, 큰엄마)--the widow of his "big" uncle (큰아버지)--lives there alone. His two cousins and their wives and children were at the house from early in the morning, but before we went to the house, Min Gi wanted me to meet his father.

Min Gi pours out soju to honor his father and uncle.


Korean family graves are usually in the mountains and feature a small mound of grass with a small stone or grass altar space in front of the mound. Every year children (or grandchildren) go to their ancestors' mounds and clean them--cut the grass and place small tokens honoring the dead--usually around Chuseok. At Seollal, there is no need because in winter time the grass is dead. We bowed to his uncle and to his father. He also explained to me that when KeunOhmma and Ohmma pass, they will be buried next to their husbands.

In Shil throws the Yutnori sticks.


After visiting the grave, we went to the Big House and ate a lot of food (I think this is pretty universal for holidays that aren't about fasting). After lunch, we watched the Olympics for a bit and bowed to KeunOhmma and Ohmma (and received money from them). Then the highlight of the afternoon--we used the money for betting on Yutnori. Yutnori is a traditional Korean board game played with four sticks that you throw to determine how you move around the board. It's very silly and dramatic. We split up into teams: the Seongju relatives (KeunOhmma and the cousins and their wives) and the Daegu relatives (Ohmma, Min Soo, In Shil, Min Gi, and me).

Min Gi gets really excited and throws his sticks wildly.


We played four times. Although the Seongju relatives won the first game, we got the next three. The last game was particularly dramatic, swaying wildly back and forth with who was ahead throughout. Finally, Ohmma threw three perfect throws that ensured us the win.

Ohmma dancing with joy over winning.


Check out the album for pictures of some framed photos of Min Gi's grandparents and father, as well as more Yutnori action:

Seollal and Yutnori in Seongju

3 comments:

  1. 새해 복 많이 받으세요!

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  2. Did you find "meeting" his father near the grave site touching or powerful? That's not quite the word I'm looking for there, actually...

    I was rather surprised at how touched I was to be introduced to Grandfather and the other relatives graveside. I was expecting I'd sort of be my normal, cynical self, since I don't think introducing people at a grave is common practice in America. (At least it isn't in my family.) But I was moved, actually.

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  3. Amanda-- yes and no, actually. It's always moving to hear Min Gi speak of his love for his family. There are complex issues with his dad, though.

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