|Happy Chuseok from Google!|
Anyway, I was lucky enough to be able to spend Chuseok with my homestay family. They invited me to experience it, as most foreigners wouldn't get this kind of chance, and I was excited and accepted.
So I spent today in Daegu with my homestay family. (In fact, I spent most of the weekend in Daegu, and I'll have many more posts about my other adventures to write after this.) Custom dictates that a family will return to the father's hometown. So, we went to my homestay father's older brother's apartment, located in an old and quiet neighborhood where, thirty-some years ago, my homestay father grew up, biked to school, and played soccer.
Despite the common translation of this as "ancestor worship", I would hesitate to call it that. I'm aware, of course, that not understanding the Korean language or really much at all about Korean culture, I could be totally off base. But the word "worship" has particular connotations that were absent from the scene I witnessed, with the grand exception of the prostration in front of the altar. Yet even in regards to that, well, Koreans bow a lot to many different people, and that is considered duly respectful, not idolatrous.
Anyway, the setup was really similar to the big rock unveiling ceremony that I attended last week: a table laden with food (fried sweet potatoes, fruits, dried squid and cuttlefish, a roasted chicken, rice, rice wine, rice cakes, and songpyeon (송편), but no pig head this time), incense, and candles. There was a paper screen with hanja on it that I couldn't decipher, and also smaller papers that represented the ancestors.
I was invited to take photos and film during the ritual, but even though I took advantage of this rare opportunity, I also felt so, incredibly awkward the entire time. "Oh, they're bowing, okay, this is a nice angle, oh, I wish the shutter weren't so freaking loud."
|My homestay father burning the... well, burning something, which signaled the end of the ritual.|
|Some of the dishes prepared at the altar. Rice cake, fried vegetable pancakes, and a chicken!|
|This is 송편 (songpyeon), rice balls filled with sweet stuff (in this case, sweet soybean paste).|
|The hillside cemetery we visited, somewhere near Gyeongsan, with many families dotting the terraces.|
|Remembering 할머니 and 할아버지.|
|Picnic time! The husbands drink and the wives prepare some bibimbap from this morning's leftovers.|
|Beautiful bouquets at every grave. They were all synthetic flowers, though! That's why they're so bright and perfect-looking.|
|This was somewhere between Miryang and Changwon. I love Korea in the fall. Today's weather was so beautiful; I'm glad the typhoon that was slated to hit Korea today veered off course a few days ago. (It would've been the fifth!)|
Secondly, Chuseok obviously has deep roots in Confucianism. For Christian Korean families, how does this play out? I've noted earlier the dynamics of "ancestor worship" and harmless custom. Does Chuseok look different to a family that does not follow Confucian ideals?
And that's all! Happy Chuseok, everyone!