Lunar New Year (they don't call it "Chinese New Year" in Korea!) is one of two big holidays in Korea, Chu-seok (the Korean Thanksgiving) being the other one. Many Koreans travel back to their hometown to spend time with their parents.
Fortunately, most of my mother's brothers live in/near Seoul, which made travel easy for me. We ate ddeok-guk for breakfast, of course. Then after a memorial service for my deceased grandparents (jeh-sah), we watched early-round play from the Australian Open and then ate again.
Then came the highlight of the day: yut-nori! Yut is one of the simplest games known to mankind. You can draw the board in a few seconds. The rules are few and simple, although there is some advanced strategy. But despite the simplicity of the game, it can be the catalyst for hours of entertainment. A little soju doesn't hurt either.
My youngest uncle is the talker and entertainer of the family, so he made this into a gambling affair, just to make things a little more interesting. So after three games and two victories for our team, I was up $30.
To close the new year's festivities, we did seh-bae, a ceremony in which you bow to your elders at the start of the new year. But this is no ordinary bow. First, you start on your knees, and then you bow until your forehead is nearly touching the ground. Second, you get hooked up, as most of you well know!
Since this was my first time celebrating Seol and participating in seh-bae with my uncles, they wanted to make up for all the lost years. So they all gave me "back pay" for the seh-bae money I haven't received over the years.
Jackpot! All told, the take was about $500. If this is any kind of sign, this is gonna be a good year!