Friday, May 25, 2012

A Feast for My Grandpa

Hello everyone,

In Korea, there is this a really wonderful custom called Jesa.  When parents or grandparents pass away, on the night of their passing each year, the children all get together and hold a feast for them.  It's a time for honoring the memory of the loved ones, as well as a chance for the whole family to get together and spend some quality time together.  So, two nights ago on May 22nd, we held a Jesa for my Grandpa Lee (my Mom's dad).  I never knew my Grandfather because he had passed away long before I was born, but over the years, through Jesa, I feel like I have gotten to know him a little bit.  =)

Here are some of the things I have found out about him over the years:
1. He was quite the handsome fellow.  --I wish I had a picture to put up here, but I don't have access to any at the moment...
2. He did Judo!  Like me!  well, I guess the right thing to say chronologically would be that I did Judo like he did  =)   Apparently he was very good at it.
3. He went to law school.  --Sorry Grandpa, I know attending law school seems to run in the family, but I have left this path. And I am never looking back!
4. He was a wonderful father to his 5 children.  I am sure he would have been a wonderful grandpa as well.

Usually when we hold Jesa in Korea, there are probably about 100 different dishes, and the table is literally groaning under the weight. This is possible because everyone in my whole family (50+ people) is there cooking all day long.  And then we feast all night long!  haha.  Good times  =)    But here in the U.S., since there are only 5 of us in the family, we held a miniature Jesa.  Here are some footages of my mommy's skills in the kitchen.  I wanted to help out, but I seemed to be more of an obstacle than help,, so I took pictures!

Different stages of tofu. yummm

I learned that you have to take the frothing thing on top off when making this soup..

look!  you can see it steaming!

And then we arrange it like so.  I learned that there are rules to follow when arranging these dishes.  I don't know all of them (I was just an assistant.. my Dad did most of it), but I know now that the fruit kinds of dishes go in the front; red or darker colored foods are placed on the East side of the table, and the lighter colored foods are placed on the West side; rice and soup go in the center in the back; incense and wine are front and center.

Normally, we would have Grandpa's picture in the center behind everything, but we didn't have a big enough picture, so Dad wrote something in Old Korean/Chinese.  I have no idea what it says (he said it, but it didn't make any sense to me... I don't speak Old Korean  lol)  It's beautifully written, though isn't it?  Dad was afraid that I would be 'drawing' these characters instead of 'writing' them if I have to reproduce this,,, and he would be correct.  There are certain strokes that are supposed to go before others, and etc. etc.  Old Korean is full of rules...  I only know how to write 3 characters in Old Korean, and they make up my name  haha.

Though I have dabbled in Caligraphy, I am nowhere even close to being able to write like my Dad.  One day, I would like to pick it back up; I hear it's good for building patience  ;)

another angle of our miniature Jesa table..

After we set it all up, we all showed respect for our Grandpa by bowing together. After all, none of us would be here if it wasn't for him.  There are, of course, rules to follow when bowing, pouring the wine, presenting the wine, and even in blowing out the candles...  It's really quite a beautiful ceremony...

And after all of us got to pour the wine once, we finished the ceremony, and ate!  Though there are only 5 of us, it's impossible to gather together as a whole family and eat dinner regularly because everyone is so busy. In fact, I think this is only the 3 or 4 time in the past month that we've all been together for a significant length of time!  So I really enjoyed having some family bonding time.  I suppose we should thank Grandpa for not only bringing us into this world, but also for bringing us together during these busy times as a family! =)

Thank you so much for reading and sharing this bit of Korean culture with me!
Have a wonderful weekend!

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