Enjoying Chuseok

Chuseok 2012 is my tenth Chuseok although I’ve only been in Korean for nine years and a month. Chuseok (harvest festival or Korean thanksgiving) is a holiday dreaded by the women in a traditional Korean family. Why is it dreaded? It’s a holiday that isn’t really one for the women because we have to work in the kitchen preparing food the whole day and serving the visiting relatives.

Our Chuseok table - 2010
Our Chuseok table – 2010

On my first Chuseok, I felt as if I were a slave. I dreaded my first four Chuseok holidays because of the workload and my inability to communicate with my in-laws. On my fifth Chuseok holiday, I taught myself to view the holiday differently.

Traditionally, married women in Korea didn’t work and they were in-charged of the household. It is their foremost duty to raise the kids and take care of the household. First daughters-in-law have the biggest duty of making sure that everything is well in the family. As the last daughter-in-law, I’m not really entrusted to do a lot in the kitchen but it’s still tiring when you have to work from dawn to midnight!

So how can I enjoy Chuseok? Sometimes, things can get better by just changing the way one thinks. I think of Chuseok as a way for me to bond with my sisters-in-law. I also think of it as my own tradition, my own culture just like the way I think about Christmas. I think of Chuseok as a holiday that my husband and son could enjoy with the other gents in the family. I think of it as my own way to pay back my parents-in-law for accepting me as their “myeon-neuri”. I am a part of my husband’s family and I feel that I should do my duty. After all, I was not forced to marry a Korean and live in Korea. It is my own choice and I should learn to adapt and enjoy the life I chose.

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