Chinese New Year in Korea Pt. 1

Pepero - snack of choice on 11/11

Preparations are underway in Korea for tonight’s Lunar New Year celebrations.  I have to get into the habit of calling it the ‘Lunar New Year’ because I asked Mr Kim what his plans for “Chinese New Year” were a couple of days ago and he immediately and slightly indignantly corrected me!  People are not too fond of the Chinese around here and I have often been patriotically reminded of Korea’s independence of spirit and culture, usually with respect to China or Japan.

As in Britain, the importance of any event in Korea can be measured by its impact at the local supermarket.  Pepero Day (11/11/11) was a bonanza of ‘peperos’ (biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate and nuts), as the sticks symbolise the 1s.  In contrast, Christmas provided relatively few seasonal items for purchase – not a turkey or box of Quality Street in sight.

However the lead-up to the Lunar New Year has brought a new section of produce at the supermarkets: gift boxes.  You would perhaps expect exotic and luxurious gift boxes to match such an important occasion in Korea, but generally the boxes were filled with ‘unexpected’ items:

Toothpaste and Shampoo Giftbox

Sesame Oils Giftbox

Variety of Cooking Oils Giftbox

Tuna Giftbox

And finally, for that special somebody in your life:

Spam Giftbox

You’ve got your Classic and your Mild.  I’ve also seen Garlic Spam available, although not in gift box format.  Spam is surprisingly popular in South Korea.  EVIDENCE: the photo below was taken at my school:

Aftermath of a Spam Party

That’s an empty giftbox of Spam lying in the bin there.  I would love to know what happened.  Essentially, someone has brought a crate of Spam into school and dispatched of it.  Maybe the tins were shared out amongst friends.  I like to think the children savagely opened the tins with their teeth and devoured the contents like wild beasts.

Anyway, the gift box thing was a mystery to me, the choice of contents seemed so drab and positively un-giftlike for such a prestigious occasion.  I finally understood when I was informed that it is tradition in Korea to return to one’s hometown and visit your family for the Lunar New Year’s celebrations.  The giftboxes are for parents and grandparents!  Lucky things.

So I’m heading into Seoul to check out the New Year’s celebrations there and hopefully spy a dragon of some kind.  I fear it might be slightly muted, due to the fact that many of Seoul’s residents will be returning to their hometowns, but, fingers crossed.  In any case, I’ll report back on the events.

I’ve been listening extensively to mixes by the excellent Phil South recently – he runs the Golf Channel Recordings label, which has been responsible for some of the best releases in recent years (here is a short interview and mix).  The song below features on a mix he did for Beats in Space and I absolutely love it.  It’s a cover of ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ by Indeep and it’s by Olimax & DJ Shapps.

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About castrouroboros

Grievous Sense Of Humour
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2 Responses to Chinese New Year in Korea Pt. 1

  1. Peter Bend says:

    How’s it going Mr Castro. Belated Happy New Year. Really enjoyed the last couple of posts. Great to see that the magic of spam has travelled east and is so revered it’s even given as a gift…probably the equivalent of a Harrods hamper!! Personally I’m on a diet at the moment (why wouldn’t I be..after all it is diet season!!!) Got a target weight loss of 2 stones by mid year, take it off slowly to keep it off. Up to now i’ve had a great start..11lbs lost in 3 weeks. I’ve found a really cunning way of losing weight…eat less, stop boozin (temporary measure) and exercise more…keep it quiet though because I’m going to market it as a ‘new weight loss programme’. Probably give it a clever name though… any suggestions??
    Enjoyed the music on this post…although I preferred the original 80’s floorfiller (my era..good memories and all that). Talking of music, just downloaded the Professor Green album…made the mistake of letting my boy synch it onto his i-pod before I’d had a listen…huge amounts of bad language and adult content. Think it may replace the ‘birds and the bees’ talk. Does that make me a bad parent????
    Gettin fed up of Man City now…I was hopin they would have combusted by now..looks like they’ll last the course though. On the upside Liverpool are still shit and the blind loyalty towards King Kenny is comical (these words may come back to haunt me if they knock United out of the cup next weekend). Anyway, cricket season on the way. Nathan’s indoor net sessions start this weekend. Summer can’t be that far off if the whites are coming out…might even try and get a game myself this season. With my predicted new slimline figure I’ll cut a dash in flannels with a brylcreamed barnet!!!!!
    Look forward to your next post.Please update the building site…i’m missing it!!!!!

    • PB! Good to hear from you old boy! Happy New Year to you too – yes it’s a delight to see Spam here, I think it’s probably here due to the time when Korea was occupied by the USA…although it’s nice to think that it’s here because of its respectable image. Just done some research and discovered that 3.8 cans of Spam are consumed every SECOND in the USA on average. Obscene.

      Can Spam feature as part of a balanced diet…? If I was going to give your astounding new diet a name I’d probably use your perfectly suited initials in some way – “Be At Your PB with PB” maybe…?

      Glad you liked the music Pete, I really like the original too, great song! How old is the child in question…? To be honest, I think perhaps he/she might get a cleaner version from Professor Green than your ‘birds and the bees’ chat, I’d love to be a fly on the wall if and when that time comes I must say!

      Yeah City look very resolute, they’re weathering the loss of the Toures et al ominously well too…I know you’ll hardly share this perspective maybe, but I think it’s a shame that Liverpool aren’t the force they were. The Prem is obviously very gripping this season (again), but I sort of hope that next season Arsenal and Liverpool are more of a threat, the gap between the top 4 and everyone else looks so wide at the moment.

      Ahhh i miss the start of cricket season, used to love going in the nets. Where does Nathan go, is he at St. Annes if I remember rightly….? I’m sure you’ll be very dashing Pete, as always of course!

      More construction sight soon too, need to make another video. Don’t know if you’ve seen the first video I did of it, but the scale of it has outstripped my camera’s ability to do it justice really. Glad to hear you’re hooked though – I am too!

      Anyway, really good to hear from you mate, hope all is well in Blighty.

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