Thursday, 18 February 2010
설날 The Lunar New Year
The Lunar New Year in Far East is one of the most important holidays. In Korea it is the family event, equivalent to the Christmas time in Western culture.
It is when every Korean meets with relatives and buys gifts. On Seollal people reattach to their families, renew relations and make new starts with quantities of issues which got previously mixed up.
Lunar New Year holidays are 3 days. This year Koreans were not lucky as the Seollal was on Sunday, it meant no additional day off. However most of people work normally on Saturdays or go to the labs to study, on this weekend exclusively Seoul got empty.
Normally during the rush hour it is so busy that travelling 1 km by taxi can get 20 minutes and it is really difficult to find space to squeeze into the subway. Not during the Lunar New Year. On Saturday Koreans went by cars, trains and buses away from the city to enjoy some quiet time, well at least those who do well with their families.
During this time one is not supposed to meet with anyone else. My Korean friend Youn Seok could not even meet his girlfriend on Sunday saying that he is stuck with his family on that time.
Knowing about this beforehand I was really afraid that it will be rather lonely weekend, one of these few moments I really feel like nothing more than just an expatriate.
I was grateful and surprised when my close friend, Iris (Doe Won), invited me and two Russian friends to spend a New Year's Day with her and her family. We had a warm welcome and a family lunch cooked by Han Ajumoni ( Mrs Han) and later went for a field trip by car driven around by Mr Han.
We had a chance to experience how Korean people respect and adore their history and heritage. In Europe most of the citizens do not care and the lasting identity is preserved by a narrow group of conscious people. Unlike in Korea where patriotism is very important.
We saw the Royal Tomb of Seojong The Great whose actions resulted in writing down the Korean language in the alphabet. We were invited into the village near Yeoju and seen the farming industry of current times.
In the evening we were back to Seoul happy with impressions. Iris gave us a feeling of being the part of the society, the kind hospitality I will never forget. Thank you dear friend.