As most of you probably know this weekend marked the annual celebration of the Korean Thanksgiving holiday Chuseok. In Korea this is the time of year where you travel to your hometown to spend the holidays with your whole family. Traditionally, celebrating this holiday also involves visiting the graves of one’s ancestors and giving thanks. I’m no expert on Chuseok; I only know what I have read in my textbooks and of course what my Korean friends have told me. However, I have a strange feeling that I may just accidentally have celebrated my own little Chuseok yesterday.
Yesterday I went to visit my parents. I had planned this short trip for a couple of weeks, as I knew my husband would be busy working at home all day that day, which meant an excellent reason for me to get out of the house and pay my parents a visit. They live about an hour away so it’s not that far but with a busy schedule I probably only make my way past their house about once every two months. Yesterday morning I walked the 30 minutes to the train station bathed in beautiful autumn rays, while listening to a Korean podcast on my phone. This is easily my favorite time of the year and I enjoyed the meditative walk through a Sunday-quiet city. In the train I noticed how many passengers were carrying heavy luggage, which is a fairly normal sight on a Sunday. Safely arrived in my hometown my mom was waiting for me in the parking lot behind the station. She suggested that we make a stop by my grandparents’ grave to lay down flowers, as the cemetery is just nearby the station. Visiting this gravesite is still quite painful to me, as my beloved grandmother with whom I was closer than anyone passed away less than a year ago. At the cemetery my mom and I tidied up the few red-brown leaves that had fallen around the tombstone. I then just stood there quiet for a while remembering my grandmother’s smile, voice, and the feeling of her warm embrace whenever I came to visit her. I felt so grateful that she had lived until I was 30 making me lucky enough to benefit from her immense wisdom and love both as a child, a young girl, and as a grown woman. Upon leaving I blew a kiss with my hand toward the stone and thanked her for everything.
We then drove to my parents’ house where my dad was waiting for us. My mom then went to the kitchen and started bringing in all of my favorite foods. We had a lovely meal together talking about our lives, the past, the present, and the future. I felt that I was able to open up to them more than I usually do over just a short visit, and they told me how proud they were to have me as their daughter.
After a wonderful meal we took our coffee in the garden feeling the autumn rays gently warming our skin. We talked about my grandmother who loved sitting in my parents’ garden. We laughed at the memory of her always telling my mom “don’t you ever dare sell this garden!”, as if it could be sold as separate from the house. I got to thinking that I probably don’t appreciate enough how blessed I truly am to have my family. Sitting in the autumn sun under the changing colours of the leaves of the trees in my parents’ garden sipping coffee I vowed to myself to be more thankful in the future.
The hours flew by quickly and in the evening it was time for me to head back home. Of course not without bagged leftovers, so that my busy husband might also enjoy my mom’s cooking. My parents drove me to the train and my mom insisted on walking with me to the platform. When the train rolled in she hugged me and thanked me for having spent a wonderful day with them. I thanked her back and promised to visit again soon.
In the train back home I wasn’t able to get a seat. There were just too many people with too much luggage. I would normally get annoyed by this but a Korean podcast and chatty friends on Kakaotalk and Hellotalk kept me entertained. Texting with one of my Korean Hellotalk partners we got to talking about Chuseok. I asked him how he had spent the holidays and he told me about visiting his hometown, paying his respects at his ancestors’ graves, and enjoying his mother’s cooking all followed by a long ride in a crowded bus. I told him that I had just spent my day in a similary manner.
Did I just accidentally celebrate Chuseok?