who ... moi?

a social butterfly: scared of much, but not of many. never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. not a fan of acronyms, snakes and angelina jolie. a HUGE fan of Fathead.

this blog is black for ENERGY-SAVING reasons.

thanks for your understanding.
if it's too dark, put your glasses on old one.

Monday, February 8, 2010


a while back, i mentioned that we were heading for a wee spot of leave due to the korean new year.

well, that time is almost upon us, with the lunar new year celebration due to kick off this coming monday 15th feb.

most asian countries have taken on the gregorian calendar which marks the beginning of every year in accordance with the solar year (like we do in western countries).  however, some (including korea) also still recognise their traditional calendar which is based on the lunar (moon) year. so in short, they get to party twice.

the korean new year (called sol-nal) is marked by the first month of the new lunar year.  it's also considered as the first day of spring - which means that we are finally seeing the end of the ice age we've been trying to survive since our arrival.

the day of sol-nal is one for renewing and reaffirming one's existence - where ancestors and elders are honored, and an increased devotion to family time is given.  most locals will visit their traditional family homes to follow age-old traditions and rituals, while the more modern koreans will leave the country for a week-long bask in the philippines or thailand sun.

an excerpt off the interweb describes the festival with more insight:

" On New Year's Eve, people place straw shovels, sieves or rakes on their doors and walls to protect their families from any evil spirits arriving with the new year. The New Year's day ceremonies begin in the morning with the donning of formal dress (hanbok) by family members. The first component of the day's activities is the rite of charye, or the honoring of the past four generations of ancestors. Food and drink (the exact form of which varies according to regional and family traditions) are offered on a ritual table (charye sang). It is common to see foods arranged according to color (for instance, red food may be on the east side of the table, with white food on the west side of the table). Typically, the food is arranged in the order that it would be eaten during a meal--fruit is placed closest to the living supplicant, to be eaten last (as a dessert) by the ancestral spirits. Rice would be placed on the opposite side of the table as the living, to be eaten first by the ancestors.

Incense is burned, and the living bow before the ancestors in order of family rank. The eldest male makes two deep bows, then a third shallow bow, offering the food and drink to the spirits of the ancestors. The rest of the family follows suite according to rank. It is respectful to turn away from the offerings after this, allowing the ancestors to enjoy the feast without interference. Then the food is cleared and water is offered up.
After this act of reverence is completed, it is time to pay one's respects to the living elders of the family (saebae. This takes the form of younger family members bowing deeply to the elders, first to the grandparents, then the parents, then the uncles and aunts. The bow is accompanied by the New Year's greeting "Sae-hae boke mahn-he pah-du-sae-oh." Usually, the elders give something to the people offering saebae: food, money, drink or something similar. In the old days, these rituals would have been performed door to door, but in today's Korea, family is quite spread out, so Sol-nal offers a family a good excuse to travel back home.

Finally, it is time to sit down to the traditional breakfast, a meal which almost always includes ttok-guk. Ttok-guk is a thick beef broth with thinly sliced rice cakes that have been topped with green onions and other colorful garnishes. Some people eat ttok-guk mandu guk instead, which is ttok-guk with mandu dumplings. Tradition dictates that this food must be eaten in order to turn one year older. This is very important as Korean age is calculated on the New Year. Everyone becomes one year older on New Year's Day. 

The rest of the day is dedicated to play, especially for the children. The boys in particular take to kite flying, while the girls see-saw. A favorite game for the day is yut nori (a stick game), and often you will see a "farmer's dance," during which gongs and drums are played to encourage enthusiastic dancers. Sometimes itinerant dance troupes will appear in a rural town to get things moving.

Sol-nal, like New Year's everywhere, is an opportunity to celebrate family and tradition. Through ritual and play, Korean families can put their lives into perspective, realign themselves with their heritage, and prepare themselves mentally for their next year of life."

due to this national holiday, no kiddlets will be attending our school, and as a result we've been given the full week off to realign ourselves and mentally prepare for the next stint of teaching ahead.  how festive. 

in light of this, our mission for the week is to draw up a list of places to see and things to do - post which we'll evaluate what we can afford in time and money, and hopefully by the end of sol-nal i'll be able to fill these pages with incredible tales of adventure, intrigue and inspiration.

so far, on the wish-list:

- a river cruise down hangnam river
- temple stay (a night in a traditional temple, experiencing the daily rituals of authentic monks)
- temple visits
- a day in a jimjibang (a full day spa where each sauna room is created from a different mineral to evoke different states of health and well-being)
- a night ski
- a day in a traditional folk village
- a walk through a 24hr traditional market
- a hike through one of their famous mountainous regions
- a day in busan (the "san fransisco of sk")
- a ferry to jeju island / volcanic crater visit

okay - so it's a little over-ambitious ... but life's most exciting canvasses are never painted with sensibility.

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