Beol-cho or cutting the weeds
It’s that time of the year again. Chuseok or the Korean harvest festival (some say “thanksgiving”) is held yearly on the 15th of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. This year Chuseok falls on the 22nd so we have a holiday from the 21st to the 23rd. Will the 20th and the 24th be a holiday too? It is really up to the employers to decide whether to give those days to their employees.
Before the Chuseok holiday, Korean men travel back to their hometowns for “beolcho” (Hangeul: 벌초) to cut the weeds at their ancestors’ graves. My husband was supposed to go to Jecheon with his brother last Saturday, but my father-in-law told them to postpone until next week, September 11. My husband couldn’t oppose his father even if he has a marathon to join on September 12. It is his duty to his ancestors.
I have experienced “beolcho” on my second Chuseok. Together with my parents-in-law, we spent a whole day to cut the weeds and clean up OUR ancestors’ graves. It was my first time ever to do such a thing and I enjoyed that experience even when I had to work under the heat of the sun. I also had to endure the insect bites I got including a bee sting on my right arm. At least I know how it was like to get stung by a bee. And nope, I don’t wish to get stung again.
We’ve been celebrating Chuseok in Seoul for the past five years. We visit the ancestor graves after Chuseok. We don’t usually go there now during Seollal because of the cold and snow during the winter season. There is no outdoor fireplace in the mountain.
Thankfully, I don’t have to accompany my husband to the province before Chuseok. The last time I went there for “beolcho” we had to endure a seven hour traffic on the way back to Seoul!