Sunday, January 2, 2011

Korean Traditions

Am I the only one who thinks it's cool to read about other cultures traditions? My mom is Korean, and my dad is a blend of a few things: Italian, Norwegian, English with some Scotch and Irish. So that makes me mixed. Growing up, I hated being mixed. I just wanted to be "white", with that blond hair, blue eyes, and tanned skin. But I'm quite the opposite. I have super dark hair and eyes, and light skin. I burn before I tan, and end up with a bunch of freckles during the summer on my cheeks and shoulders. Surprisingly, some people don't know or can't tell that I'm mixed. And when people do know, they usually ask if I'm Hawaiian. I hate the questions growing up. "What are you?" I'd much prefer "What are you mixed with?" or "What nationality are you?". "What are you?" just makes me feel like I should respond with "Ummm, human?"

Me in a traditional Korean dress when I was three years old

It's funny in pictures, sometimes I look really Asian, sometimes I don't, guess it depends on the angle. My husband loves that I'm mixed, and says that's why I'm so pretty (awwwwwww). He says, and I've heard a few people say, that mixed people are so pretty because they get the best qualities of both races. But I don't know, I'm just me.

I think I look obviously mixed in this photo.
I love being mixed now, though. I love being part of a different culture. Although, if I get told again that I look like the actress China Chow, I might scream.



My mom lives 15 miles from us, which is awesome. Yay for free babysitters! She's taught my daughters a lot of Korean. I wish I knew more of the language. She tried to teach me when I was younger, but I had no interest in it. I always figured that I'd have no use for it. Then, when I was in the military, the first base I was stationed at was Osan AB, South Korea. Hmmmm, should have paid more attention in Korean class, huh. I can understand more than I can speak. I can do what I call "baby talk." "I'm hungry."" I'm tired."" Can I have a Coke, please?"" I'm ready to leave." Little phrases like that.

But we do keep up with some traditions. I always take my shoes off when I go to my moms house, it's a sign of respect (plus it helps keep the carpet clean). And I always bow when we're out and we see one of her friends, things like that. Koreans, and a lot of Asian cultures, are really big into respect. Especially respect for your elders.

My mother in a traditional dress in Korea
We did one of our traditions yesterday, since it was New Years Day. Every New Years, we go to my mom's house, and we do a "big bow" and she gives us "bow money." Basically, the older people in your family (parents, grandparents, etc) sit on the floor, and you kneel in front of them, place your hands on the floor, and place your head on your hands. And when you do that, you say a phrase that basically means "Best wishes for the New Year". Phonetically, it would be

"Say hey boke mah-knee pa ju say yo"

Yes, even Ava did it.

Then Jasmin.

And Arielle.

And me. Perhaps I should adopt my daughter's butt down technique.

And even Jake does it. I love that my husband supports our traditions.

Oh, and if you didn't notice the blinding colors, my daughters dressed themselves that day. I don't complain when they do, I'd rather they are happy with what they are wearing, than worry about people noticing that they look like a couple of ding dongs. We do have a joke though, I'll ask them "What do you say if someone asks who dressed you today?" And they will both say "We did!". I've learned to pick my battles.

My ding dongs that I did NOT dress that day
So after you bow and say your phrase, the person you bowed to will give you some money. It's basically the principle of "you get what you give." So if you give money in the New Year, you'll get money through the year. 

Then we'll have a big lunch together. Yesterday we made yaki mandu (some people call them pot stickers). It's a lot of work, but it's fun to spend that time together. Plus the home made ones taste so much better. 




My mom makes hers with ground beef, cabbage, tofu, chop chae noodles, and salt and pepper. 

yaki mandu before it's fried


Are there any traditions from other cultures that you participate in?

8 people love me:

Whadda said... [Reply to comment]

love that you are keeping up with some of the Korean traditions for your girls!

Renee said... [Reply to comment]

Jennifer, thanks for visiting my blog and for the sweet comments.

I can relate to your feelings of being 'different'. Those childhood hurts never quite go away but painful as they are, they build our charachter and makes us who we are.

Loved reading about your traditions. Happy New Year!

Jennifer @lifecraftsandwhatever said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you ladies! I think it's important for my girls to know my mom's culture. My middle daughter tells everyone that she's Korean, but she pronounces it cody-inn. And yes, being different growing up was hard, when back then, everyone wants to just blend in. But I love it now. Different is good.

Miss Madison's Mommy said... [Reply to comment]

Wow, very cool! I loved reading about your traditions and that photo of Ava doing it is DARLING :) Sadly most of the Polish traditions we used to do died with my grandparents, I wish we had kept them up. Hopefully your Mom is teaching you to make all that wonderful food!

Nicole @ Black Cab Designs said... [Reply to comment]

This post really resonated with me. My mom is Korean too and my dad is French/ English. Growing up I have been called Hawaiian, Greek, Italian, Hispanic (with a tan). I always hated feeling like a bit of a mutt but now I love and embrace that about myself.

Pam said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for sharing this post. I love it. So nice to have those traditions and to teach them to your children.

Catherine said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for posting this, it was so great to read about your traditions.

I'm a mix of lots of nationalities (all European though) but my family never really did any cultural things (except for certain desserts!) so I'm trying to discover traditions I can start in my family. I'll bet your daughters will love all the memories!

Jennifer said... [Reply to comment]

I think it's great that you are keeping up with your Korean heritage! Love the beautiful hanboks and I think you are beautiful, I love the Asian eyes!