South Korea: Chuseok

On the weekend just past, Koreans celebrated Chuseok when families get together and honour their ancestors and visit in each others’ homes: a bit like Thanksgiving plus the get-together of Xmas.

Being family, we were invited to the home of our so -in-law’s Uncle (his oldest male relative) and Aunty; they’d stayed with us when they came across to SG and LW’s wedding with SG’s parents.

SG’s father & uncles and some of his cousins were there; SG and the boys – splendid in traditional hanboks – had arrived earlier, and the others had already eaten when Warwick and I arrived with L at about 10:30 am.

We were made to sit down on the floor at the low table and eat, watched by the men at the table and probably by the women in the kitchen. We provided a great deal of amusement, and the men had Warwick drinking shots of alcohol (only 19% proof, thank goodness)!

Some good luck made me more skilful than ever before (or since) with my chopsticks, as every mouthful was tracked from bowl to mouth, and more and more food pressed on us. We managed to communicate with signs and gestures and a great deal of laughter, and finally I was allowed to sit up on the sofa before my knees and legs totally lost all feeling. Thereafter I was offered more fruit and bean paste sweets that looked like big chocolates but tasted like nothing much. Eventually I copied L, accepting everything but leaving it on the plate next to me.

Warwick continued to sit with the men, which did his hip no good, but made a great impression, with many gestures and much hilarity! We left around midday with much bowing, and kissing and hugs – most unusual in Korean society except with close family – and felt we’d provided them with a great deal of entertainment!

It was wonderful to be made to feel so welcome and included in such a special family and cultural event.