A couple of weeks ago, we hosted a potluck dinner. Our friend H, who traveled from Korea, was staying with us, and a couple of Korean families currently living in the States brought some beautifully made Korean dishes. We met over a home cooked meal to welcome back H and to catch up like old times.
Last year H’s family resided in Grand Rapids while H was finishing up his studies. It was then that I became very good friends with H’s wife. In fact, she became an older sister, what Koreans would call an unni (aka “big sister” in Korean). We met once a week to work on our respective language skills (her English and my Korean). Overtime we learned about different aspects of Korean and American culture, especially the differences in parenting styles and cultural holidays.
During our potluck dinner conversation, I learned three new things about Koreans and how they spend the holidays.
1. Indeed, Santa Claus does make a stop in Korea.
H shared a story about a recent conversation with his son, L. This year L said he didn’t want any presents from his parents. L wanted Santa to bring him his present. Apparently, Korean kids know that Santa’s gifts are really from mom and dad, but they’d rather maximize their gift size with a larger one from the big red guy.
I could share a different Santa story when we lived in Cyprus. Years ago, someone told Piano Man that Santa Claus is from America. He got the idea that Santa only brought presents to kids in America. When Piano Man asked Prof if that was true, Prof responded, “I don’t think so, Piano Man, because you’re Korean. He only gives presents to American kids.”
But of course, Santa (aka Father Christmas) came to Cyprus too.
It’s amazing how the story of St. Nick continues to morph in the 21st century, whether you’re in the States, Korea, Germany or any other part of the world.
2. Koreans don’t spend Christmas with extended family.
Shocker! I was surprised to hear that. It sounded so countercultural, but our Korean friends said they’ll spend an entire day at church (if you’re Christian), or out and about at the mall, such as Dong Dae Mun, with friends.
3. Koreans spend family time during Chuseok and New Year’s.
While they aren’t big on family time at Christmas, Koreans will spend New Year’s with family. I think our friends meant lunar New Year’s; but for many Koreans living in the States, most celebrate New Year’s on January 1st. When I think back to my childhood, that made perfect sense. We spent a quiet Christmas at home, and a loud and busy New Year’s with our extended family. I’d wear my hanbok and bow to my elders, wishing them a happy and blessed New Year.
I’ve never celebrated Chuseok, but I do recall one conversation with Unni about Chuseok, Korea’s Harvest (Autumn) Festival. Much like China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, Koreans will travel back to their hometown and spend three days with family. Chuseok is one of the largest travel excursions in Korea because that’s when Koreans visit the tombs of their ancestors.
There you have it – three new things I learned about my culture. It’s different and beautiful.
On the Blogging Front
I am taking time off to spend time it with family. I’ve got articles lined up on Twitter, sharing the latest and greatest museums, crafts, and photography articles. I’ll be adding more pins to Pinterest to make my cultural inspiration boards more robust. And of course, as always, I’m building my interest in photography, which Instagram has been a great conduit of learning on the fly. So check out those social media sites to see what’s out there.
Come January, I’d like to make a few content changes, and share an art giveaway.
(Yes, my first official giveaway!)
I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, or vacation in your hometown. And if you’re planning to travel by land, sea, or air, check out my eBay article on Travel Essentials During the Holidays. You might want to consider bringing a few of those essential travel items before you head out the door.
From my hometown to yours,