As I mentioned over on AsiaPages, today is my birthday. Almost every year, it seems, my birthday falls on or near Ch'usŏk [also spelled as diacritic-less Chusok or (yech!) Chuseok]. In the West, it would be like being born on Christmas or a couple days before: No one is ever around for a party, since they're off to their hometowns somewhere south. Everyone is preoccupied with the holiday.
Even back in California, my birthday was ill-timed. Growing up, I had to deal with my mother's birthday AND my parents' anniversary being five days before mine, which meant mine was often forgotten or "consolidated" with my mother's (some years there would be one cake for the two of us, which really sucks as a kid). My grandmother (who lived with us half the time) had her birthday a week before mine, and to top it off, my birthday was always during the busy first or second week of school. People simply forgot it.
That was annoying enough, but then, while I was still in my teens, my older sister decided to get married the day before my birthday, forever making my birthday a secondary affair to their anniversary celebration.
My little brother, who got married before my older brother or I (I'm still not married, of course), decided to get married on 9/11/99, the week before my birthday, which just made things worse. 9 x 11 = 99, so they thought it was a neat day. Who knew that two years later 9/11 would symbolize something so horrible? [In 2002 or 2003, I asked my brother if he and his wife ever considered just "officially" celebrating their anniversary on a different day, like March 11 (exactly six months before/after their actual anniversary) or November 9 (thus keeping the 11 x 9 = 99 theme). Apparently a lot of other people had asked him the same thing, but he and his wife decided no: they figured there should be at least ONE happy thing associated with that date.]
My mother, bless her heart, wanted to make sure she wished me a happy birthday while it was actually my birthday (she's missed a few times, thanks to the time difference, and one year she forgot altogether), so she called me at 3 p.m. California time, which is 7 a.m. here. She always has a problem with this, mixing up a.m./p.m. or subtracting a day when she should be adding. Sheesh. It's not like I'm the first one of our relatives to be living in Korea or Japan!
At 7 a.m., after talking with my mom, I finally got back to bed, but then every time I started to doze off, I would get a text message from a friend, relative, alumni association, or corporate entity wishing me a Happy Birthday! or Eat a lot of songpyŏng for Ch'usŏk! I never did manage to fall back to sleep in any useful way.
As I told Jodi, sucky birthdays get a mulligan. I will be re-celebrating my birthday as long as it's still September 18 in Hawaii, which is well into September 19 here in Korea. And again on 음력 9월18일, sometime in October. Presents are welcome. There may be a party.
ADDENDUM TO ORIGINAL POST:
I forgot to add that, like Space Nakji, I get people who feel sorry for me or ask me if I'm lonely this holiday because my immediate family is all back in California (but unlike Space Nakji, I rarely get anyone asking me if I know what Ch'usŏk is). We would never do that kind of thing in America; just ask all the Jewish people who are never asked during Christmas if they feel empty inside.
Sphere: Related Content
Judge Rules Unlawful Command Influence In General Sinclair Sexual Assault Trial - It is pretty clear that the General Sinclair sexual assault trial has turned into a farce: FT. BRAGG, N.C. — A military judge ruled Monday that the U.S. Ar...
1 hour ago