행복한 어린이날! (Happy Children’s Day!)

Today is Children’s Day in South Korea; a day to celebrate children. While growing up I didn’t know that other countries did have Children’s Days, I remember asking my mom why the U.S. didn’t have a Children’s Day since we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. She said that everyday is children’s day so there was no need for a separate holiday. At that point I sure didn’t think every day was about me–really I still don’t believe that–but I do understand her point a bit more now that I’m a parent.

Still, Children’s Day is a holiday in our house, and one we’ve celebrated every year since our son’s been home. Each year my husband has taken the day off work and we’ve done something as a family, like go to a museum or the zoo. This year it’s a bit different since my husband just started a new job in late January and doesn’t have as much vacation time. But he’s still managing to take the afternoon off and we’ll do something our son really wants to do, which this year seems to be going to the park.

I also let him pick out a sugary cereal that he could have for breakfast on his special day, and it’s very likely that we’ll have ice cream at some point today. We also let him pick what I’m going to make for dinner, and if we go to a restaurant for lunch, we let him pick the restaurant.

Our son spent a good part of the day yesterday planning Children’s Day, and letting us know his desires. After all, as he said, “Mom, it is a day all about me.”

If you’d like to know a little about the history behind Children’s Day, you can see the post I did last year on May 5.

Independence Movement Day (삼일절)

Today, March 1, is a national holiday in Korea. It’s the observance of March 1 Movement Day (삼일절), commemorating a day in which Koreans openly resisted the occupation by the Japanese and fought for their independence. It is also sometimes called the Samil Independence Movement.

On March 1, 1919,  a series of demonstrations took place across Korea rallying for independence from Japanese occupation. Japan proclaimed its annexation of Korea in 1910, fully occupying the country, after having had a presence on the peninsula for years before that.

It began at 2 p.m. on March 1, 1919, with thirty-three nationalists who made up the core of the Samil Movement coming together at the Taehwagwan Restaurant in Seoul to read the Korean Declaration of Independence. The declaration had been drawn up by the historian Choe Nam-seon and the poet Manhae (also known as Han Yongun). At the same time, movement delegates read the independence proclamation at previous appointed locations throughout the country. The proclamation read:

“We herewith proclaim the independence of Korea and the liberty of the Korean people. We tell it to the world in witness of the equality of all nations and we pass it on to our posterity as their inherent right.We make this proclamation, having 5,000 years of history, and 20,000,000 united loyal people. We take this step to insure to our children for all time to come, personal liberty in accord with the awakening consciousness of this new era. This is the clear leading of God, the moving principle of the present age, the whole human race’s just claim. It is something that cannot be stamped out, stifled, gagged, or suppressed by any means.”

Koreans took to the streets, marching and shouting “Mansei!”, which means “long live Korea” or “may Korea live 10,000 years.” The Japanese worked to suppress the movement, which 12 months later was fully contained. But before it was put down, approximately 2 million Koreans had participated in the more than 1,500 demonstrations.

The fight was not without cost. During the movement, about 7,000 people were killed by the Japanese police and soldiers, and 16,000 were wounded. Many lost property as well, with more than 700 private houses, 40-plus churches, and a couple of school buildings being destroyed by fire.

More than 45,000 people were arrested, of whom some 10,000 were tried and convicted. Many fighters who were arrested were kept in Seodaemun Prison, without trial, where they were tortured and some were executed. The prison still stands today as a reminder of Korea’s past, and is open for tours (see yesterday’s post).

The day is commemorated in Korea by flying the flag and re-enactments of the day have started to take place. You’ll find a description of how the day was commemorated last year on Dynamic Korea, the site of the Korean embassy. www.dynamic-korea.com/news/view_news.php?main=KTD&sub=HRT&uid=201000316137&keyword=

If you’d like to learn more, here are a couple of resources for you.

– This is an excellent seven-minute video that recaps the movement and what it accomplished for the Korean people. http://wn.com/Mansei_Movement

– A Korea Times column about the March 1 Movement: www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/07/113_61567.html

So today, in honor of Korea and those who fought for its independence, we say: Mansei! Mansei!

Daeboreum (대보름)

For those living in America, once the new year’s celebration is over, well, it’s over. But the celebration of new beginnings continues in Korea on the 15th day of the first lunar month when Daeboreum is celebrated.

Since Daeboreum is a lunar holiday, the holiday’s date on the Gregorian calendar changes every year. This year Daeboreum is today, Feb. 17.

Traditionally Daeboreum was a time of preparation for the coming months and a time to pray for a blessing-filled year. Many of the customs of Daeboreum center around happiness, good health, and a plentiful harvest.

One of the foods traditionally eaten on Daeboreum is ogokbap (오곡밥), or five-grain rice. Sharing this dish with at least three neighbors or friends is considered to bring good luck throughout the year. This isn’t a dish I’ve tried to make yet but I’ll pass on a recipe I found on the Korea Tourism site. You’ll find it at this link. http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FO/FO_EN_Recipes.jsp?gotoPage=2&cid=1035956&cat1=21708&cat2=21711

Another tradition involves the eating nuts, called bureom. Bureom includes walnuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, and peanuts. On Daeboreum people are expected to eat the number of nuts equivalent to their age.

One of the biggest Daeboreum festivals is the Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival, which is held on Jeju Island. This year’s festival begins today and runs through Saturday, Feb. 19. Here’s a link to the English Web site: www.buriburi.go.kr/foreign/eng/htmls/main.htm

Here’s the link to an excellent article about the holiday and its customs. www.seoulselection.com/index.php/article/single/daeboreum/ (And where I obtained some of the information for this post.)

Seolnal (설날)

Seolnal (설날), known in the U.S. as lunar new year, is the second most important holiday in Korea with only Chuseok ranked as more important. While it falls on the same day that the Chinese celebrate the lunar new year–in 2011 it’s today, Feb. 3–Koreans have their own unique way of celebrating this important day.

Later in the post I’ll provide some information and links about how the holiday is celebrated in Korea. But since part of my mission with this blog is to give adoptive families ideas about how to celebrate Korean holidays in their homes, I’ll start with some of those ideas.

Thus far in our house, we’ve celebrated the holidays with ddeokguk (post on Jan. 30 and under Food, Recipes) and playing yut nori (post on Sept. 9 and under Culture, Games). This year I think we’ll add the sehbeh tradition (post on Jan. 20 and under Culture). We also read The Next New Year, and this year I’ll add New Clothes for New Year’s Day. 

It seems that every year we add one or two things to our Korean holiday celebrations. And, of course, it gets easier every year as our son gets older and more into the celebrations. In addition to what we do as a family, we also sometimes get together with other Asian adoptive families and share about Korean traditions. And this year the Sunday before we played yut and learned more about the holiday at our Korean class for adoptive families. I would love to know how some of you celebrate the Seolnal holiday with your family.

This page on the Korea Tourism site has wonderful information about how the holiday is celebrated in the Republic of Korea. No need for me to explain it when it’s all here for you to read for yourself. http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=941952

But just a little more on chare, or chesa, performed at both Seolnal and Chuseok. This practice is one of memorial or ancestral rites, a way to honor and show respect for past generations. This practice involves placing food on a table in a certain order and bowing in respect before the table. The only difference between the table setup on the two holidays is that for Seolnal the rice is replaced with ddeokguk (rice cake soup).

This PDF lesson plan on Seolnal shows the layout of the chesa table, plus has lots more information that you might find useful.

And here’s another site with lots of details about Seolnal celebrations. http://fnk.ca/board/coffee-lounge/41479-korean-new-year-cultural-read.html

I hope everyone has a wonderful Seolnal. 새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Traveling Soon? Be aware of Seolnal.

With one of the biggest Korean holidays only two and a half weeks away, I thought I’d give a heads up to anyone planning to be in Korea in early February.

Seolnal (설날) is the lunar new year holiday in Korea, and this year it falls on Feb. 3. (Yes, seolnal is like Chinese new year only the official holiday is lunar new year and it’s celebrated in unique ways by many Asian  countries.) Like Chuseok in the fall, it’s a holiday in which most Koreans return to their ancestral homes to share the holiday with extended family. And it’s a three-day holiday in Korea, so many businesses and offices will be closed Wednesday, Feb. 2, through Friday, Feb. 4.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing some traditional foods and activities that are part of a Seolnal celebration. While some people in Korea celebrate the Jan. 1 new year, the lunar new year continues to be a much bigger new year celebration.

Since our son joined us, we’ve celebrated Jan. 1 with a traditional southern U.S. celebration (complete with black eyed peas and goals for the year) because that’s where our U.S. roots are. And a month or so later, we’ve celebrated Seolnal with traditional rice cake soup and playing yut as a way of incorporating and honoring the Korean roots that are now part of our family.

I hope you enjoy the Seolnal posts and find something (or many things) your family can use to celebrate this special Korean holiday.


Korean American Day, Jan. 13

Did you know that today is Korean American Day in the United States? I didn’t until a friend posted it on Facebook first thing this morning. After a little research, I’d learned the following.

Jan. 13 was declared Korean American Day by Congress in 2003 to mark the centennial of Korean immigration to the U.S. The date was chosen because on Jan. 13, 1903, a pioneering group of 102 immigrants who arrived in Hawaii from Korea to work in the sugar cane fields.

Now Korean Americans number almost two million and the U.S. is home to the second largest Korean population outside of the Korean peninsula, after China.

So in celebration of being Korean American, can you name some famous Korean Americans? In sports? In entertainment? In government? Here’s a short list to get you started.

Anthony Kim, golfer
Toby Dawson, 2006 Olympic bronze medal skier (and a Korean adoptee)
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steeler in the NFL
Simon Cho, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist in speed skating
Michelle Wie, golfer
Hank Conger, baseball player
Richard Park, hockey player

Daniel Dae Kim, Hawaii Five-O and Lost
Grace Park, Hawaii Five-O
John Cho, The Green Hornet, Star Trek, and the Harold& Kumar films
Daniel Henney, Three Rivers and My Lovely Sam-Soon
Tim Kang, The Mentalist
Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy

Other Professions
JuJu Chang, Good Morning America
Linda Sue Park, novelist
Cecilia HaeJin Lee, author
Chang-rae Lee, novelist
Paull Shin, Washington state senator (and a Korean adoptee)
Kaba Modern, dance group

And that’s just a short list! Today would be good day to check out http://iamkoreanamerican.com/; you could even submit your child to be featured. Or maybe come up with a Korean American fusion food–make a bulgogi pizza or add kimchi to your burger. How you will celebrate?

November 11–Pepero Day

Today is Pepero (빼빼로) Day in South Korea. Pepero is a Korean snack made of long cookie dough-type sticks covered in chocolate (or my favorite, chocolate-covered almond chucks–yum!). When eaten two at a time, as people often do, the snack looks like the number 11. Thus, the 11th day of the 11th month has been deemed Pepero Day.

So today is a day to share Pepero with the ones you love. They come in a variety of flavors. The ones I’ve tried are regular (sticks covered in chocolate), the ones with almonds, strawberry, and nude (where the chocolate in inside the stick). But there may be more flavors out there.

I wonder if next year Pepero Day will be even bigger since it will be the 11/11/2011.

한글날 (aka, Hangul Day)

Today, Oct. 9, is Hangul Day in the Republic of Korea. It’s a Korean national commemorative day marking the invention and the proclamation of hangul (한글).

While it might sound strange to an American to celebrate an alphabet, the Korean alphabet truly is something special. The KoreanHeros.net site says:

Of the six thousand languages in existence, only one hundred have their own alphabets. Of these one hundred languages, Hangul is the only alphabet made by an individual for which the theory and motives behind its creation have been fully set out and explained. … Hangul is neither based on ancient written languages nor an imitation of another set of characters, but an alphabet unique to Korea.

Hangul was introduced to the Korean people through a book titled, Hunmin Chongum. Here is what the KoreanHeros.net says about the book:

The Hunmin Chongum, which contained a systematic analysis of the new alphabet, is also without precedent in history, and October 9th, its original date of publication, has been designated ‘Hangul Day’ by the Korean Government in recognition of its importance. The Hunmin Chongum is only 33 pages long, consisting of four introductory pages written by King Sejong, and twenty-nine pages of commentary added by Jade Hall scholars. Its structure is orderly and its content logical and scientific. The original version, for 500 years thought to have been lost, was rediscovered in a deserted house near Andong in 1940. It is currently being kept in the Kansong Museum as National Treasure no. 70, and was included in UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage in 1997.

I’m not sure how Koreans observe this day, but I’ll throw out some ideas for you to use with your family.

– Read The King’s Secret, which I highlighted on Wednesday
– Making hangul cookies (use a roll-out dough that can easily be cut into the hangul characters)
– Learn to right your names in Korean.

You can find more information about the invention of the Korean alphabet by visiting www.koreanhero.net/kingsejong/index.html# and clicking on The Korean Alphabet on the site menu.

개천절 (Gaecheonjeol, aka National Foundation Day)

October 3 is National Foundation Day in Korea, celebrating the creation of the country in 2333 BC.

This country, often called Gojoseon (ancient Korea) to distinguish it from the later Joseon Dynasty, was located on the northern part of the Korean peninsula where North Korea is today.

Dangun Wanggeom is the legendary founder of Korea. The foundation myth says that Dangun was a descendant of the gods. I won’t recount the entire story here, but you can find it all over the Web. Just do a search for Dangun or Tangun or Korean founding myth.

The oldest existing record of this founding myth appears in the Samguk Yusa, a 13th-century collection of legends and stories.

A good way to commemorate this holiday is to read the story of Dangun. I’ve also seen a cookie cutter in the shape of the Korean peninsula, and although I don’t have it (yet) making Korea-shaped cookies sounds like a fun activity for the day.

추석 (Chuseok, aka Korean Thanksgiving)

Chuseok is one of the most important holidays in the Korean culture. It’s one of two holidays in which families travel to their ancestral cities to celebrate together. While it’s sometimes referred to as Korean Thanksgiving in comparison to the U.S. Thanksgiving, there’s really much more to Chuseok than just a harvest festival.

Chuseok is a time to give thanks for the harvest but also a time pay respects to your ancestors. Lots of food is prepared, and the family dresses in hanbok. Families put out food on a table to honor ancestors, often accompanied by a photo of the older family member, and pay their respects with bows. And in Korea, they may visit the gravesites of ancestors and clean up around them, performing the ritual of charye at the family’s ancestoral graves. Once the family has paid its respects to the ancestors, the feast is on.

Chuseok falls according to the lunar calendar, usually sometime between mid-September and early October on the solar calendar. This year it’s Sept. 22; while the holiday falls on Sept. 12, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012. In Korea the day before Chuseok and the day after Chuseok are also national holidays, allowing everyone to travel to their ancestral homes.

The one food that is most closely associated with Chuseok is songpyeon, which I highlighted on Sunday. The favorite foods of ancestors might also be included on the table, as well as fish, rice, soup, jap chae, and fruit.

Traditionally games and various activities were also a part of the Chuseok celebration. Games included archery, seesawing for the girls, tug of war, and wrestling. You can find out more about traditional Chuseok celebrations at the Korea Tourism site page on Chuseok, which you’ll find here:

Here’s how our family usually celebrates Chuseok:
• We have a Korean meal. For us it’s usually san jok (Korean kebobs), mandu, other side dishes, rice, and ho bak jun (zucchini pancake). As I said in an earlier post, I’m the only one in my family that likes songpyeon so we do Rice Krispy treats cut into the shape of half-moons.
• We put a framed photo of my great-grandfather on the table and talk about how he helped shape our family. Whichever ancestor you choose to highlight, you could talk about what has been passed down from that generation to your children? What have your ancestors given you that you’re most thankful for? We also talk about our favorite memories of grandparents and other older family members.
• We read books about Chuseok. A couple of good ones are Sori’s Harvest Moon Festival by Lee, Uk-bae, or In the Moonlight Mist by Daniel Son Souci.
• We play yut nori. You can find this game at your local Korean market or make your own. This game was featured earlier this month on Sept. 9.
• Or, if you’d like some more game ideas, I’ll share some new ideas I’ve recently stumbled on. You can check out this blog post done by a Canadian woman who was teaching in South Korea.  These ideas take some traditional Korean games and give them a twist so even your little guys and gals can play. http://silveroses69.blogspot.com/2006/09/chusok-activities.html

However you decide to celebrate, we hope you have a great Chuseok!