On this side of the world there is a whole holiday that, though I may have heard of it before, I never really gave much thought. The Lunar New Year (Seollal) is the most important holiday of the year, even bigger than Christmas! Everything closes, all shops, stores, markets and street vendors. All modes of transportation are typically jammed as everyone makes every possible effort to travel to their hometown and visit/honor their parents. I've heard what usually takes about an hour to travel can take up to 6-8 hours on Lunar New Year because traffic is just that bad. We have decided not to try traveling anywhere today!
It is traditional for people to dress up in hanbok's (a traditional Korean dress), to gather together to eat (including a traditional soup called ddok guk, which is like a dumpling egg soup that supposedly makes you grow a year older every time you have it....It is traditionally served on Lunar New Year and everyone turns one year older on this day which is why Korean ages and American ages are different. Typically, you are a year or two older in Korean age than American age) and celebrate with family. It is also tradition that children bow to their elders on Lunar New Year and when they do so they are given money (apparently the more you bow, the more money you get!). Last night we visited Pastor Bae's house for dinner (he is the head pastor over the entire church) and since Caleb isn't quite old enough to bow, he asked for a kiss ("bo bo") and when Caleb gave him one he got 5,000W.
It is also custom to buy special gifts for family and those you respect. We started noticing these special gift baskets showing up in stores everywhere about a month ago. Gift basket sets of spam, fruit, oils and shampoo are among the most popular. The prices on these things are insane! We saw gift sets of several containers of spam for upwards of approximately $75! We received a gift set of shampoo and toothpaste and soap from the church as a gift. Funny thing is, the shampoo is hair loss shampoo and the toothpaste is bamboo salt and tiger....I don't think it is anything personal though because all the pastors got the same one! Caleb enjoyed looking over each item.
Although we aren't doing much to celebrate, it has been fun learning more about this holiday that as an American I knew little about. It is also a really busy week for us because many people are on vacation for the 3 day holiday and there are a lot of things going on! In addition to our normal weekly schedule, we went to Pastor Bae's for dinner last night and then had a party here at our home for the youth, tonight we have a game night party with a bunch of people from church, tomorrow we are going out to lunch with some friends and then JAMES AND BETSY are coming again (we love seeing them!) and then Saturday is Caleb's first birthday. It is an exciting and festive week around here!