🧧 If you’re living in Asia, or have an interest in Asian cultures, you may be aware that quite a few people around the world just celebrated Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year. According to Google, it’s a thing for 1.5 billion people. 🧧 Happy Lunar New Year, or Happy Chinese New Year.
Enjoy this brilliant card from one of my students below. The Chinese character on it means 복 – good fortune. The auspicious paintings are for good 풍수 – feng shui – around my in law’s house, hung to commemorate the holiday.
Random Rant incoming…
Here in Korea, it is called Seollal and has its own set of rites. Though Seollal appears to be influenced by the Chinese luni-solar calender, if you'd like to keep your head and your body connected, you'd do well not to mention this to Koreans, from what I have observed.
Many Koreans, especially those who have never had the opportunity to live abroad, are highly ethnocentric, patriotic and proudly nationalist. It makes sense, I guess: when you get invaded by your much bigger neighbours every other century, you will need a strong identity to maintain your sense of self, as a society and a country. What does worry me at times, however, is the other side of the coin of that nationalism. That is, my students telling me they hate Chinese, they hate the Japanese. They tell me they want to kill them. 'NO JAPAN'. I tend to ask them why they think this way, and where they get their information from. Then, there's the way a lot of Korean customers treat foreign staff - that includes my own Korean family. While it is no big secret that many people will treat service workers as beneath them all around the world, foreign hospitality workers get a steeper downgrade, more often than not getting 반말ed, being ignored, being shouted at when staff ask them to follow rona-regulations such as, not walking around the restaurant with your mask off, etc. Then, there's the bit where you cannot say anything factual that's not praise, e.g. 'Korean vocabulary is 70-80% rooted in Chinese words'. 'NO! 30% maximum, the rest is pure Korean. Dokdo is our land.' When you get to the airport, and make your way through to immigration, guess who gets interrogated at the border? Yeah, not me, but Chinese and South East Asian tourists will be questioned by migration officers before I queue up, and they'll be still there by the time I finish retina and fingerprint scans, and pass through to baggage pick-up. Last year, rona testing became compulsory for foreigners but only optional for Koreans. To Korea's credit, the government abandoned this policy once foreign ambassadors turned the heat on. Anyway, these are just my personal, subjective impressions and experiences, being in my 7th year of living here, with my Korean husband and extended Korean family. I am not trying to be yet another foreigner ****posting about Korea but I do believe you can be critically aware of certain aspects of your host country while also being appreciative of it. There's more but I guess I should stop. Rant over.
Rather than bore you with a history lesson about Seollal, here’s what my family and I did – it was, dare I say, rather non-traditional – plus a few fun tidbits and oddities. If you are interested in its history, here’s the Wikipedia article.
My Seollal 2022
The day before was a tad busy, actually. We stopped by some brewer and bottleshop friends of my husband’s, sampling some of the goods along the way. Dates are hard to come by with this sexy man, as he is just so busy with his own brewing business all the time. I really enjoyed our time.
And how is this man in his mid-forties?! Skin like a caramel custard flan, and he does not even have a skincare routine, does not work out, drinks, used to smoke a lot, etc. Meanwhile, here I am, eating well, sleeping well, exercising, vitamin pills and supplements, 20-step-skincare routine, and I doubt I’ll look like him in ten years.
Personally, Korea is the perfect foodie country for me as I just love spicy food, and hot sauce on everything. What cracked me up the most that day were these delicious Jindo dog hot sauces at one of the craft beer pubs we visited – chilli on the left, Habanero pepper on the right:
Next up, I helped my Korean mother in law with Seollal prep. In Korea, this means that the women of the household fry all sorts of skewers, pancakes, fish, meats and vegetables, and rice cake soup the night before, so it can be just heated and served on the day.
Men are more often than not the sole breadwinners in Korea (though this has been changing in recent years) and women are often housewives and/or mothers, who are free to follow their hobbies once the kids start school. Amongst my husband’s friends, I am the only working wife and the only one without kids!
At my old workplace, I remember kids asking me why I was still working despite the fact that I was married. The two coexisting was a very foreign concept to them. To his credit, my father in law helps with everything around the house and does most of the cooking.
The next day, Seollal, we rocked up at my in-law’s and snacked on semi-dried persimmons for starters – 반건시. If you ever get the chance to try some of those, run, don’t walk: so good!
We tucked in all the traditional Seollal food, then, got ready to leave the house.
We also got to check out and try my in law’s new massage devices. They have a whole-body massage chair, in which the husband promptly fell asleep in, as well as a hand acupuncture machine. Perhaps I am a masochist, but I really liked the at times painful acupressure of that bad boy.
Later, we went to visit the husband’s grandma – socially distanced and with masks on. At 97, this matriarch is sharp as a tack and remembers all conversations from our previous visits.
I was completely taken with all the random little bits you could find in her flat. Take, for example, this intricate closet made from ivory and mother of pearl, or this hand-painted Hanji lantern with Chinese character calligraphy on it. How beautiful are they?!
The rest was pretty much standard fare for Seollal. The day after, the husband climbed a nearby mountain and we met with one of his mates for handcut noodle soup with fresh kimchi and seafood for lunch.
In the evening, we did something we very rarely do – we watched a movie! It was Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, a western which had completely flown under my radar. The Mister loves violence in movies, me, not so much – but it was well-made and entertaining, even if it was not my taste.
If you celebrated, how was your Lunar New Year? 👋 Let me know in the comments.
© 2022 The Empties Diaries All Rights Reserved