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An Introduction to Korea's Tradition of Charye Updated: 2009-01-26 12:00:00 KST

An Introduction to Korea's Tradition of Charye
The Lunar New Year, or 'Seol' in Korean, is one of Korea's biggest holidays.
In this Year of the Cow , the day falls on Monday the 26th of January with the official holiday starting the day before and ending on Tuesday.
And among many traditional activities held on this holiday one of the most representative is a memorial rite called Charye held to pay respect to ancestors.


[Reporter : JANG SOUIE
sjang@arirang.co.kr] "During the 'Seol' holiday the Hanok Village in Seoul is giving brief lectures to visitors on how to observe the tradition. So let's take a closer look at how Charye is performed."

Although the way of arranging a Charye table may differ from region to region there is a basic rule to the layout.
Fruits are aligned on the first row in the order of jujubes, chestnuts, pears and persimmons from left to right.
Dried meat and herbs go on the second row with pots of soup on the third and cooked dishes on the fourth.
Finally, on the fifth row a bowl of soup and rice are arranged.


[Interview : Lee Seungkwan, Lecturer
Hanok Village] "Living people put rice to the left and soup to the right. But the dead eat from the other side of the table, so it is arranged the opposite way. The rice goes to the right and the soup to the left."


[Interview : Milan Seman, Czech visitor] "We would like to see how the ritual is performed and what is actually going to happen with the food on the table."

The food stays untouched even after the ritual is over and Koreans believe this is because our ancestors smell the food instead of actually eating it.
And business is booming these days for Charye food delivery companies like this one located in Seoul.
Customers can choose the Charye table they want through the Internet and order online.
The company says even working 24 hours a day they still find it difficult to fill all their orders in time during the holiday.


[Interview : Cho Changyoon, CEO
Garewon] "More Korean women are working today than in the past, so they don't have time to prepare the food for Charye. But they still feel obliged to observe the tradition and this is why more people are turning to Charye food delivery services."

Throughout time the formality of Korea's Charye tradition has changed in some ways to better adapt to the modern lifestyle.
But what remains unchanged is the tradition's spirit of honoring our ancestors.
Jang Souie, Arirang News.
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