Thursday, September 30, 2004

Chusok Thoughts

Chusok is always in interesting holiday for foreigners. Basically because its not really a big thing for us (as would Thanksgiving or the 4th would be for a Korean in the States). However those of us with family in Korea (by blood, marriage, or adoption), the holiday takes on a different meaning. For me I am always reminded of joke I thought of a few years ago while celebrating the holiday with my wife's family for the first time.

This was not the first type of this ceremony I attended though. I did spend Lunar New Year (Seollung?) with my wife's family as well. At both holidays they conducted the ceremony of an offering for deceased relatives. The offering was essentially an array of vegetables, fish, some meat, fruit, and rice cakes. In essence what a "big" Korean meal would be for a family.

The first time we went through it, I was told a little of the folklore behind it all. Particularly on how on some levels that the relatives in question actually do come in there sprit form and ¡°eat¡± while the ceremony is being conducted. Out of wonderment, and perhaps flippancy, I asked, "Who comes? I mean, all your past relatives are a lot of people, yet your mom only set out places for eight". I was told usually people consider only their recent (about 2-3 generations) deceased relatives come. My wife helpfully, or perhaps wistfully, explained who she imagined sat down to eat.

That day going home I played a game in my head. I thought of my recently deceased relatives (at that time they were all grandparents), and thought what they would like to for there meal. It was fun, interesting, and its surprising what you remember. For example my "Grandpa George" (my namesake) would require cans of Blatz beer, and pickles (preferably homemade). "Grandma Z" would most likely demand either a bloody mary or a salty dog with her meal, which I would think would be a pork tenderloin sandwich. It's a cute a fun game, I encourage you to try it.

Anyway, The next holiday was my aforementioned Chusok. Once again the table was set with the same array of food, and this time I tried to imagine the ghosts coming to eat as I good-naturedly do my bowing to the offering table. Somewhere between my third and forth bow imagined the deceased filing in and one of them looking at the table, and then one of them says "Awww! Korean AGAIN???"