Author Archives: Lewis O-Schneider

New years luck

“Korea is pretty strict about how you treat your elders. One example I remember is on new years, lunar not Jan 1st, you’re supposed to bow down and say 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) which roughly translates to, I wish you receive lots of good luck. Its a full bow, you get on your knees, and there’s a specific hand you put on top of the other depending on your gender. If you do this, you get money in return, so there’s no reason not to. It basically allows the elders to pay for good luck and respect, and the kids get money”

My informant and I have participated in this act. We both do it every year, even if we have to facetime our grandparents. The saying can also be sort of like a ‘happy new year’ in that you can say it to your taxi driver without the whole bow. It became a tradition since it solidifies the hierarchy in the family.

This ritual often takes less than 10 minutes. In the past, my sister, dad, and I would do it during dinner, since with the time shift, it would be our grandparents breakfast. Like other rituals, its designed to control some part of the elder’s life, in this case their luck. There is a lot controlled during the ceremony also, such as how you bow and what your hands should be doing.

Injeolmi Tteok

“It’s somewhat of a tradition in Korea, I’m not sure if they do it anymore, but my mom told me when there’s a wedding, the bride and groom eat a certain kind of Tteok called Injeolmi, which is supposed to be extra sticky. They eat extra sticky Tteok so that the pair ends up sticking to each other, resembling a long and happy marriage.”

My informant learned about this tradition from his mom. He hasn’t witnessed it in person, but has only gone to one Korean wedding. It makes sense he said, since there is a saying of ‘you are what you eat’, hence if you eat something sticky, you might get stuck to your partner, which is a good thing.

I think this is a good example of a ritual. No one truly has control over how long the couple lasts, and by consuming this sticky tteok, it gives the couple control over their marriage. Tteok is also relatively cheap, allowing for this ritual to become common. Tteok is also traditionally very important in Korean culture, and by consuming it on an important day,

Graveyard rules

“Back when I was a child, whenever my family and I were on a trip, if we passed by a graveyard, my mom told me to hold my breath. I think she mentioned it was because the ghosts would become jealous of my breathing and would attack me. Personally, at least back then, I thought it was to be sure you didn’t inhale a ghost. Now I think it was just a way to get me to be quiet”

When I asked my informant if there were any rules that he followed that had some story or legend behind them, he talked about his graveyard rules. He is unsure of where his mom learned it, but assumes that it was just part of her family as well. He does comment that it was a good way to get him to be quiet on car rides, however.

It is interesting how small rules such as holding your breath by a graveyard can have a legend behind them. This reminds me of a similar saying in Korea, where if you hold your breath through a tunnel, your wish comes true. This graveyard one is more frightening then the tunnel one however, leading me to believe the goal of both of these sayings is just to keep kids quiet.

The Legend of the Pineapple Fruit

“The legend revolves around Pina, a spoiled girl who refused to cook for her sick mother, causing her mother to become enraged and curse her. Pina later vanished, and her mother discovered a strange yellow fruit with a thousand black eyes that reminded her of her curse. In order to honor her daughter’s memory, she decided to plant the seeds of the fruit and share the harvest with others. The fruit became known as pinya, after Pina, and has since become a symbol of generosity.”

My informant learned about this legend in his Filipino class from his professor. He said that the lesson of the legend is to warn children not to be lazy. My informant also told me that the professor told the legend as a way to see into Filipino culture before the Spanish had colonized the land.

I think that the legend serves as a decent warning for children. No child wants to turn into a piece of fruit. It is interesting that the fruit is a pineapple in this story. There is a trope of when children are turned into an object, and in this case it is a pineapple. This is probably due to it being a staple of fruit in the Philippines.

Interactions beyond the grave

My informant talked about some paranormal activity that happened after her brother passed away.

The first incident happened a couple weeks after the death. The brother had a bmw, and through some series of events, his boyfriend received it. When he was driving the car, he got into a car crash. After the car crash, when the boyfriend checked his phone, he had missed a call from the deceased brother on snapchat, exactly when the crash happened. After informing the family, they checked the brother’s phone, as snapchat accounts can only be logged in on one device at a time, and the account was never logged off. No one else in the family logged on so there is no plausible explanation for this event.

The second event that happened was a couple days after, when the boyfriend had a vivid dream that he and the brother were touring my informant’s, and her brother’s, high school. Afterwards, he described what he saw in the dream to one of his friends, and everything he stated was accurate. The catch? The boyfriend had never been to that school in real life.

Both of these stories are true paranormal stories. These stories contain the trope of a loved one being visited by the dead sometimes in a time of need. The call during the car crash could have been one of warning, and if the boyfriend had picked up (which you shouldn’t when driving) the crash may have been avoided. Similarly, seeing your loved one in a dream is also a common story. Dreams can be seen as some sort of liminal space between life and death, allowing for the communication between the two parties. This isn’t something that directly impacted my informant, but was something that she witnessed.

No one has a reason to lie, leading me to believe in the story, but realistically, it doesn’t make sense. The first can be attributed to shock perhaps, as people often hallucinate or imagine angels or something when in accidents, but the second doesn’t seem to have a plausible reason.