harvest moon migration

One of the most important moons of the year, harvest moon, came and went just a few days ago, on Wednesday.  While i was growing up in korea, it used to be a huge deal- families move across the country, a temporary migration for just couple days.  the small quaint country villages will be full of children and their children returning to the old roots, looking and finding what have happened since the lunar new years (another big migration day).   Much suppressed issues would surface, the in-laws and in-families in general dealing with all kinds of small daily explosions, inevitable really, when that many stranger-families are crammed into the living quarters.  There are much litanies of daughters-in-law about the works they must do without a single word of thanks, about husbands and sons who cannot satisfy either of their ladies and so on.  It is rather comical to think of all these small catastrophes happening simultaneously across the country.  I bet it isn’t so funny to be in one. Ha.

just a small note. we (koreans) call our harvest moon festival as: han-ga-wi, which meant 'great middle,' coming from the end of the active season, ending with bountiful harvest (or one hopes), preparing for the winter and rests approaching.  and no, not all asians celebrate their harvest moon festivals the same.  for us, it involves family gathering, visit to the family graves (tiding the plants, general clean up before winter snows come), a memorial service at home that requires very specific preparation of food.  actually this is a bit interesting. i will list a bit of the rules.  i am so happy i don live there at times. 

1. rice/rice cake soup (soup for new year's) on right, 
alcohol on left
*on memorial days, it's rice in bowl with lid. 
on new year's, it's rice cake soup.
on harvest moon, it's rice cake, steamed on top of pine tree leaves
2. seafoods on east, meat dishes on west
3. fish heads east, tails on west
4. cooked food on west, raw food on east
5. noodle dishes on west, rice cakes on east
6. dry food on left, wet food on right
7. for stew/soup row: from left, meat-veggie-seafood soups
8. dried fishes on left, grain-based non-alcholic bev on right
9. red fruits (such as apples) on east, white ones on west.
10. no peaches! 
*'furry' fruits are known to 'repel' spirits of all kinds
*since it is for the souls of ancestors = spirits (haha)
11. no fishes without scales (ex. eels, catfish)
12. also no fishes with thick scales (ex. carps)
13. no red-coloured seasoning (ex. chilies)*
14. salt to season instead of soy sauce

hmm. why not. i will also put a blurp on what actually happens on this memorial service. it is a bit archaic and difficult, often daunting. but current trend is that you -do-what-you-can so... there are also load of imageries that goes with specific foods and their meanings but will skip that for now. yawn.

memorial service:
1. day before: bath and cleaning up of the house (esp. the site). it is usually done now in the living room of the first-born-male of the house. hence the curse of being-daughter-in-law-of-first-born, ha ha.
2. cleaning of dishes/sets 
(often made with brass or wood, pain on the ass to clean)
3. prepping of food (gaaaaaah; tradition reqs 5 rows of food)
4. get dressed, males on east (right), females on west (left), oldest to youngest (front to back)
5. get the food table set, only the non-temp-sensitive ones 
6. set memorial plaque of first and second generation ancestors (written on papers, set on wooden plaque)
7. male of the house burns incense (x3), offering of alcohol (x3), 'inviting' ancestors*often done with rice-based liquor
8. everyone do two kneeling-down-greets, together
(this is hard for some reason)
9. bring out hot food items
10. get the spoon (of ancestor) on rice/main starch, 
chopsticks on food
11. male fills up cups of ancestors 
(if there are more than one)
12. as ancestors 'eat,' family will stand aside/be on kneeling position (5 min?)
13. take spoon/chopsticks back to initial position. close lid of rice bowl (if there's one)
14. two big send-off-kneeling-greets, burning of memorial plaque
15. clean up. eat. straighten out legs. 
bickering and general family merriment.

nuts eh?  

The most challenging thing about the lunar calendar is that it moves around. How inconvenient!  So though one is somewhat aware o what may be approaching, one may not exactly know where it is (much like peripheral vision isn’t it).   One chews on nails nervously and hope that it’s going to turn up at some point, then forgets about it, going ahead making another appointment. Well, that’s exactly what i did. Boo.

Paternal gene pool’s birthday was recent and so i have decided to save the wknd, just in case there is a bit of time to go see them on Sunday (brunch! Yay!), then thought it would be perfectly alright to leave on Monday after.  Well. Damned moon.  Got in the way again.  Without realizing, i booked my flight right before the harvest festival day, which was on Korean time wendesday day (more of these date changing games...), much to my maternal gene pool’s dismay.


She said on the phone. But without much exasperation (thank god).  I think being away from my initial culture often makes things a bit more difficult that it ought to be.  I try my very best to hold onto what i remember, what i thought was important.  But often, being carried away with another wave and current altogether, i miss things once in awhile.  And such was this. 

I think i understand where she was coming from.  This year is really tough for my family. With loss of the young one, especially.  He is now far enough away that he wont be making it to the moon festival date. Or the new years. Birthdays.  You name it.  He’ll only be a little mark we carry within our lives, individually, along with a small monument that is in thoughts (still have to get to the catalogue and booking appointments, etc. I never thought that funeral related businesses can be so relaxed. May be too much. Ha ha) And the fact that i am heading away from her nest (continuingly so) does not sit so happily with the lady. Not to mention all her sisters and brother is at least some odd 14 hours of travelling away. 

But you see, the old expression says: woman may be weak (don’t stone me, feminists!) but mothers are strong.

Post gabe’s death, she’s been alright. Strong, level headed. Who knows what is going on in her mind really, but to the rest of the world, i think she’s doing really-extremely-well.  So i take that assurance with me and set off with the plane.  Now, to the land of mosses and rain, and what they think is a sunny season of autumn. We’ll see.  The harvest moon nights are bright and cold.  Many thoughts to everyone.  

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