This post is coming to you from the motherland where my family and I are settling in for the next two years. It's been a bumpy beginning, but I think we're finally getting settled in and we're finding a home here.
Today we woke up to our first major Korean holiday. There was no Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, and unlike back home, commercialism doesn't win out here. Family does. Everything is locked up tight as families gather together to gobble up good food and catch up with each other. Traditionally the holiday seems to be about visiting graves of ancestors and remembering the past. But, pragmatically it's a time when far flung family members drop whatever they are doing, wherever they are in an amazingly busy culture to come together for a few days. Seoul is a ghost town as people travel back to villages and home towns. I wondered if it would be a good time to travel against traffic and visit Seoul, and was told by some other Westerners that it would be a waste of time because NOTHING was open and I'd be walking around empty streets. It's a country that doesn't shut down for a major Typhoon (they postponed start times for PRESCHOOLS by a mere two hours during the last typhoon and none at all for office workers) but for a family holiday....
The day before the Chusok holidays started (everyone gets three days off the day before and after the actual holiday, as well as the holiday itself so they can travel) there was an incredible festive mood in the air as people walked to and fro with gift bags in hand. Workers in uniforms milled around taking long lunch breaks without doing much work. Students got out of school early. Housewives attacked department stores and grocery stores much like we do in the States during our Holiday season. Here, it's customary to exchange "gift packs." Gift packs are made up of practical (so korean) items arranged prettily in boxes. Items could include bottles of oil, lotions, shampoo, or even S PAM!
We decided to not deal with ALL of Korea on the move, and opted to stay at home this year. Instead we are getting together will a couple of other Korean American families to celebrate with a potluck dinner. I don't think there will be any S pam though. Kinda pricey (that's almost $30!)
Wishing you and your family a Happy Chusok from this side of the world!!! Jooliyah