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:
And finally, for that special somebody in your life:
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:
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.