[873호 13면, 발행일 : 2017년 11월 22일(수)]
Well, it got cold quickly. These days, I’ve noticed many Korean families have begun doing Kimjang – that annual gathering when the family makes their yearly supply of kimchi. It always seems to happen right about the time the weather turns cold and snow is approaching. This year, Kimjang seems earlier than last year. That indicates to me that the winter has a good chance of being longer and colder than last year. So, how can you keep warm in a longer, colder winter? For me, the answer is thankfulness, anticipation, and family.
In the US, the fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving. It’s a “harvest festival” that’s similar to Korea’s Chuseok holiday, except it happens much later in the season than Chuseok and is typically colder. In fact, this year, American Thanksgiving falls on the same weekend as our Kimjang. But even though it’s cold outside (and, yes, we’ll be making our kimchi outside), our hearts can stay warm because of the gathering of close friends and families that we can share the experience with.
In the US, at my home, the oven roars all morning and into the early afternoon. We sit down to a feast of turkey, bread stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, gravy, and candied sweet potatoes. There are often sports on TV, and we typically overeat well into the evening. In Korea, during Kimjang, we steam and eat pork (bossam) with the freshly made kimchi, and drink rice wine (makkolli) together. And this is another holiday when my wife’s four sisters and their families all gather together for a minireunion.
With five or six families and their kids all running around, eating fresh kimchi and hot pork, the cold weather doesn’t feel so cold. Another holiday to anticipate is Christmas. Immediately after Thanksgiving ends in the US, we put up our Christmas tree, turn on the Christmas music, and start emotionally preparing for the holiday. In the US, Christmas is one of the most family-centric holidays. Many families who couldn’t gather together for Thanksgiving make an extra effort to do so for Christmas. Christmas is filled with lights, shopping, warm coffee and hot chocolate or other specialty drinks, the smell and taste of peppermint, bright reds and greens, Santa and his reindeer, and loads of decorations. Although most people (especially children) look forward to opening Christmas presents to see what they’ll GET, I feel that Christmas is a special holiday that allows us to SHARE what we have and GIVE to others, and also express our THANKFULNESS for the successes and memories of the past year.
And once Christmas is over, the holiday fun is not. New Year’s and another major party are just a week after that. This is a time to gather up your thoughts from the past year, to remember the joy and pain you’ve experienced, and start making a plan for a better new year. We typically “ring in the New Year” at 12am on January 1st with drinks, fireworks, and a kiss for that special someone. In Korea, I’ve also enjoyed greeting the rising new year’s sun on the Busan coast. So if you want to stay warm in this cold weather: reflect on your past year and be thankful for what’s happened; anticipate the coming holidays and new memories you’ll make with your loved ones; and have a delicious hot drink, in a warm place, with someone you love.