Archive for October, 2008


Korean Holiday List

One way to incorporate your child’s birth culture into your family is to celebrate, or least acknowledge, the birth countries holidays. I found a list and brief description of Korean holidays on Wikipedia. This list tells you whether the flag would be raised on the holiday. If it would, one idea is to get a Korean flag and raise on these holidays. Below is the list of Korean holidays that we celebrate, including tips and a little info on how we celebrate them. I haven’t gone into a lot of detail on describing the holiday since that is done on the Wikipedia site. There are many books that relate to these holidays but that will have to be a different post.

설날 (Seollal)- Lunar New Year (date varies by lunar calendar)
One of the major holidays in Korean, Seollal celebrations include food, showing respect for the older generation, and games. The traditional food for this holiday is ddeok guk (떡국) (soup with rice cakes). Koreans believe you don’t become a year older until you eat ddeok guk. Here’s one recipe for ddeok guk. Omit the dumplings for a more traditional Seollal soup. Children perform sebae, which is a deep bow to their elders. Games such as Yut are played and kites are flown. One of my favorite books about Korean culture is Look What We’ve Brought You from Korea by Phyllis Shalant. This is a children’s book with how-to information about celebrating Korean holidays and culture. It includes instructions on how to perform sebae, how to make a kite for seollal, how to play Yut (including how to make your own game pieces), and how to play jaegi chagi, which is a hacky sack-type game. I found it at our local library but it make a great addition to your home library.

3.1절 (Samiljeol)- Independence Day, March 1
On this date in 1919, Koreans declared their independence from Japan. Since the fight for independence was a struggle to preserve the Korean way of life, coloring a flag or pages about traditional Korean life would be a good project for younger kids. With older kids, this would be a good day to discuss the occupation of Korean and what that would have meant for their birth families. During the occupation Koreans were forced to give up their Korean names, their language and their food, so other ways to commenorate this day might include cooking a Korean meal or learning a new phrase or Korean song.

어린이날 (Eorininal)- Children’s Day, May 5
This day celebrates children and is a national holiday in Korea. My husband takes off on May 5 each year and we do something as a family, just as families do in Korea. One year we went to the children’s museum and another we went to the zoo. We let our son decide what to do, within reason, and where we’ll eat on this day.

현충일 (Hyeonchung-il)- Memorial Day, June 6
This is a day for remembering those who have given their lives fighting for Korea. Again with older children it would be a good day to discuss Korea’s history. I have a great-uncle who died in the Korean War, so when my son is older we’ll talk about him and others who gave their lives.

제헌절 (Jeheonjeol)- Constitution Day, July 17
Celebrates the Republic of Korea’s constitution, which was  put into place on this date in 1948. Coloring pages or worksheets might help your child become more familiar with South Korea. Older kids could read the Korean constitution or learn more about how the Korean government works.

광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)- Liberation Day, August 15
This holiday celebrates both the surrender of Japan on this date in 1945, thus ending the occupation of Korea, and the establishment of the Republic of Korea government on this date in 1948. Since this day is technically the birth of the nation, you could find your child’s birth place on a map and learn about that city.

추석 (Chuseok)- Korean Thanksgiving (date varies by lunar calendar)
This site has some coloring pages and crafts you can do with your family as you celebrate Chuseok.

개천절 (Gaecheonjeol)- National Foundation Day, October 3
This holiday celebrates the founding of Korea, which according to legend occured in 2333 B.C. This site has information about the mythical founding of Korea. The stories look to be tranlated from the original Korean texts. A project you might want to do on this day is the South Gate art project on the Crayola Web site.


Ode to Mothers—Both Birth and Adoptive

One of our favorite Broadway musicals is Wicked. You’re probably already thinking, What’s that got to do with international adoption? Well, nothing really, except that one of the songs from that musical reminds me of how both birth mothers and adoptive mothers contribute to molding our children. I was singing the song “For Good” to my son when he’d been home just a short time because the song is quiet and soothing. And as I listened to the words I was singing, and could see how each character’s words could represent one of my son’s mothers, I started to tear up. Now each time I sing the song, I think of our son’s birth mother and how much we share, although we’ve never met. I’ve posted the words below so you can see what I mean. And before anyone says, “Oh, so you’re equating birth mothers with the Wicked Witch of the West,” let me say that I’m not. In fact, if you’ve seen the musical you know that the whole message is that people aren’t always as they’re portrayed by others.

As I visualize this, it is each women singing to the child who calls them both mother. Elphaba’s part represents the birth mother and Glinda’s part represents the adoptive mom.

I’m limited:
Just look at me – I’m limited
And just look at you –
You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda
So now it’s up to you
(spoken) For both of us
(sung) Now it’s up to you:

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend:

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you:

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for

But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet; pulled Like a ship blown
From orbit as it; Off it’s mooring
Passes a sun, like; By a wind off the
A stream that meets; Sea, like a seed
A boulder, half-way; Dropped by a
Through the wood; Bird in the wood

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better

And because I knew you
Because I knew you

Because I knew you
I have been changed for good.


Korea’s National Foundation Day

October 3rd is National Foundation Day in Korea. It’s the day the country commemorates the mythical founding of the country. The Korea Society’s lesson titled “Exploring Korea’s Creation Myth” says:

“According to the myth, Tan-gun founded Choson in 2333 BC. Interestingly, historians also use that date as the beginning of the nation. However, the first people to settle in the Korean peninsula were probably from the Ural Altaic region.”

One actitivity you could use to commemorate the day would be to use the lesson mentioned above. It includes a script so students can act out the foundation myth.

Or you could read the story the foundation myth with your kids. Here is a great site that tells the story of Tan-gun.

You may also want to talk about the actual founding of Korea. Children’s Press (a publishing arm of Scholastic) has released a new series of books called Enchantment of the World, Second Series. This series includes updated books (copyright 2008) on both South Korea and North Korea by Patricia K. Kummer. They are great resources that not only include the ancient history of the country but also recent history, culture, daily life, and more. We found both of them at our local library. Or you can purchase them from Scholastic’s Web site or from

My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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