my Korean dream come true… and other important things…

Well, it’s finally here, Reader. The day has come!! I’m writing to you from inside my very own neighborhood Starbucks. Just a mere four or five-ish weeks (definitely no more than six) since workers gutted the building and started this little project, my favorite international chain is up and running and smells gloriously new and dusty. (Like a new house, this smell will fade and it will start to smell like a real Starbucks. I’m not disappointed. I mean, I HAVE A STARBUCKS NOW!!!)

I would take, like, eleventy thousand photos for you and show you how glorious it truly is, but there’s about a zillion people in here and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t appreciate that… Never you fear, though. I’ll be back and I’ll be snapping pics, whether the other patrons like it or not….

Aside from my caffeine-induced ecstasy, I’m also excited because today is my last day of work before the second-biggest holiday of the year in Korea. Seollal (설날) is the Korean version of Christmas, sort of. Every year, people travel back to their hometowns to celebrate the lunar new year with their families. Businesses shut down for at least a day, sometimes three. (The legal calendar recognizes three full days as part of the holiday, so it’s not unusual for some of the smaller guys to just shut up shop and take a rest.) Kids pay respects to their elders by bowing deeply and presenting various gifts, and often receive a little money in return.

Seollal is an important holiday for paying respects to ancestors, too. Families will prepare special dishes to present on an “ancestral table” they’ve prepared in their home. After the rites, families eat together and play traditional games. Sounds a lot like our holidays with family, don’t you think?

Traditionally, families will wear hanbok (한복), the traditional Korean celebration clothes during their home ceremonies. These days, fewer and fewer families are going the traditional route, especially in cities. While it’s still very much a part of the culture, it’s also not unusual to come across people or families who don’t do the “traditional” things. Many Koreans now wear more formal Western clothing to celebrate the holiday.
 
courtesy of dangarang.co.kr... traditional Korean hanbok for men and women...

courtesy of dangarang.co.kr… traditional Korean hanbok for men and women…

So, as a Westerner, I won’t be taking part in the “official,” traditional celebration. KBFF and I are going with another Korean friend to Gyeongju, a coastal city in the far southeast corner of Korea. I’ve not been there yet, but I’ve heard it’s beautiful. There’s a rich history in the area and I’m excited to finally see it all for myself. We’re only going for a day, so depending on how much we get in, I may have to go back when things warm up!

So, Merry Tuesday, Reader. And happy lunar new year!

*************
If you’d like to learn more about Seollal, you can visit www.visitkorea.or.kr.

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