Sunday, February 7, 2021

Korean Holidays and the Corona Pandemic


In Eyes of the Believer's column of the Catholic Times the director of a theological research center explains how the Corona 19 pandemic will change the way, the Lunar New Year and the holiday celebration will be spent this year.

In the past, articles about the holiday syndrome appeared frequently in the media around the holiday season, but after the Corona 19 pandemic, it is rarely seen. To prevent the spread of the contagion, the number of people spending non-face-to-face holidays is increasing thanks to the government's recommendation to refrain from visiting their hometowns and relatives.

Recently, a media survey was conducted on the subject of "Do you like New Year’s Day with its non-face-to-face aspects?" 84.1% said that it is ‘good’. Except for teenagers who were not able to receive their customary handsel, (money gifts from the elders), most of them welcomed the non-face-to-face New Year's Day. However, the reasons for each age group was slightly different. Many respondents in their twenties answered: it is good not to listen to questions related to employment and marriage at the gathering of relatives during holidays. Married women responded it is good because they don't have the table for the ancestral services, while those in their fifties don't have to give the money gifts.


It seems that there are two main types of holiday stress. One is the psychological burden that is felt with conversations with relatives they have not seen for some time. They speak of their economic and social successes or failures. If you are a student, you should study well and go to a good university, and if you are a young man, you should get a good job, get married, have children and buy your house. Many people are uncomfortable because they are evaluated and compared to others. 

Another is the physical and emotional stress that married women often experience. Nowadays, the web drama Daughter-in-law is extremely popular among the younger generation. The writer introduces a few of the holiday episodes drawn in this drama. During the holidays, when the whole family gathers, men enjoy watching TV and drinking alcohol. However, women cannot leave the kitchen continuing to prepare food and wash dishes. 

The protagonist, the daughter-in-law who is newly married and is on her first holiday, is struggling in preparing the food. Before she came to her in-laws, her husband promised to help her in preparing the food. She has never seen one of the ancestral rites before however, at a holiday with the whole family present her husband couldn't even be near the kitchen. The atmosphere of the in-laws, kitchen work was regarded as the woman's job.

The daughter-in-law barely endures her difficult holiday and is ready to go to her own family but her sister-in-law is coming soon, and the mother-in-law asks her to wait for her to come. The mother-in-law tells the daughter-in-law, in the future, to go to her own family before coming to the in-laws. She found this sad and upsetting.

After returning to her house, she is exhausted and is trying to rest, when her mother-in-law calls to come for dinner, she believes to be told to cook again and wash the dishes, and the daughter-in-law refuses. After the broadcast, there were a lot of comments on the bulletin board saying that she was probably the same as her in-laws and that she should not have married. This is a common experience of many young married women.

Thanks to the Ministry of Health and Welfare this year the holiday stress has been greatly reduced because of the Corona19 pandemic. Even after the situation has stabilized due to the spread of vaccines and treatments, she wonders if large families gathering in the future will have the stressful conversations and the holiday appearance of only women making food in the kitchen. 

The writer wonders whether she is talking only about an occupational disease. 'Will the holiday landscape change after Corona? What about the church?’ The church has changed a great deal during the pandemic and is it unlikely to change after the coronavirus pandemic? Would it not be a challenge that requires active change like an uncomfortable holiday scene?

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