Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year!

Last week I was at my friend's house and her kids and I were discussing birthdays. I said, Baby E's birthday is on the holiday that has fireworks. She said, "Oh, Chinese New Year!" Um, no, Baby E was born on the Fourth of July. So that spurred me to this post. Today is not Chinese New Year, it's Lunar New Year! Lunar New Year is celebrated in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Taiwan and many other places in addition to China. Of course, here in the U.S., the celebrations in those countries are no match for the iconic dragon dancing through the streets of your nearest Chinatown, the red envelopes filled with money and the aforementioned fireworks [yes, invented in China].

In Korea (where I was born!) the lunar new year celebration usually involves everyone going back to their hometowns. That would be Masan in southeast Korea for me. Because people have to travel, the holiday lasts for three days. The table is set for observance of the ancestral ritual, tteokguk (rice cake soup) is eaten, and children bow to their elders as a form of filial piety. The last activity is called sebae. The boys usually do sebae to their grandparents on New Year's Day of the Gregorian calendar. They bow and say the words saehae bok mani badeuseyo (Hangul: 새해 복 많이 받으세요). Then the grandparents give them some advice on how to live in the new year. This year H bowed and said it. He received his advice and pocket money. After much prompting R finally did it but instead of saying the Korean words he said, "saehae ocho nueve." Obviously the semester of Korean school did nothing for him. R got it that he should speak a different language and I guess "saehae" to him sounded like "siete" so he went with what should follow that.

The Lunar New Year is one occasion during which Koreans still wear their hanboks. I haven't worn mine since H's first birthday. This is R in his hanbok from a couple years ago. I haven't gotten either of them new ones this year because there really isn't much occasion to wear it. Either this or next summer we hope to go to Korea and then I'll get them new ones there. The latest styles are really so different from the traditional ones and are really beautiful. Baby E is very lucky--my mom already bought Baby E's first birthday hanbok when she was in Korea last month.

If you haven't yet made your new year's resolutions, you have another chance. So go get some tteok or noodles or oranges and celebrate today. Happy Lunar New Year!

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