Ever since I immigrated to America in the year 2000, I have celebrated Korean thanksgiving with my family annually. We would have most of our families gathered at our house, eating Songpyeon (rice cake with different kinds of sweet fillings that is steamed on pine needles), fish, Ttuk (rice cake), japchae (noodles), etc. At the end of the day, we would have a bow ritual to our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, to show gratefulness and appreciation for all of their hard work. In return, us children would get little sums of money.

When I first entered elementary school in 2001, I remember the school teaching me about American Thanksgiving. Knowing very little English, I couldn’t grasp the concept right away. It just fascinated me because the school was covered with pictures of turkeys, pumpkins, and orange decorations. I went back home to my mother asking her, “What is thanksgiving?” She answered, “It’s just like Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving).” Historically, Chuseok is thought to be originated 2000 years ago where Sila King, Euri, organized a weaving contest to help the weaving industry grow. The losers of the contests had to prepare foods for the winners. As the time went on, Chuseok came in to shape where Koreans celebrated for 3 days long. Family gathering became very important in Chuseok. As I got older and started to attend middle school, the American thanksgiving became clearer.

It was interesting to see that during one thanksgiving, my mother actually adopted the idea of cooking a Turkey during with the traditional Korean thanksgiving meal. I have no idea if that was because she thought I became more “American” or if she wanted to combine the two cultures together, trying to teach me how to be a Korean and an American.

However, now that I came to MICA, I was celebrating only the American thanksgiving. It was awkward. Turkey, mash potatoes and gravy–foods that I felt unfamiliar with for a thanksgiving dinner. This shift of culture sort of confused me. Living half of my life in both countries, there was no clear identity that I fit in. When I was with my family, I celebrated Korean thanksgiving.  When I was with my friends, I celebrated American Thanksgiving. Now being away from home for the past two thanksgivings, it would be very awkward to go back home and celebrate the traditional thanksgiving. Somehow the turning over of a leaf has evolved into a large change.

Nevertheless, the confusion clarified as I turned 20 this year. I have concluded that it is not important which tradition I celebrate, as long as I remember my Korean origin, and appreciate both cultures. Even though food, customs, traditions, and origination were different, I think the thanksgiving in both cultures shared a common concept of gratefulness. Both countries brings families and communities together to prepare and share delicious food, honor their ancestors/respective deities and appreciate all of the family members for being one another’s their daily lives.

by Angela Ahn,

Korean-American,

MICA BFA Candidate 2012

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