It is Easter Sunday, and we are still in Korea, the country where we don’t normally see any signs of Easter. This morning, we got up and went to church like usual. We go to a Korean speaking church on Sunday mornings.
We decided to bring some of the sugar eggs to give out to the children for Easter. I decided the thing to do was to give the eggs to the parents and let the parents decide when the kids were allowed to eat them. I have one Korean friend who has three small children, so I have him three sugar eggs. He tried to let me know that many Korean parents don’t normally let their kids eat anything with sugar in it. I knew that about their family that they didn’t give sugar to their kids, but I had forgotten. He asked me why Americans give candy to their kids. I told him it is a holiday, and on Christmas, Halloween, and Easter, we always give our kids candy. If they can’t eat it at any other time of the year, we let them eat it them as a celebration. His response was, “Why don’t you give them something like bread?” My thought was “Bread?!” Bread is a staple in the west, not a treat, but in Korea bread is often used as a treat. I realized that for many, many years, the rest of the world had sugar, but Korea didn’t. They used to make candy without sugar, but with honey or nuts to sweet the candy slightly. It dawned on me that we were having a cross cultural discussion. I come from the west, and in the west, we give candy to our children on special occasions, and I had not even thought about Koreans not doing it. I pointed it out to him, and he agreed. After that, his oldest son came and he showed him the candy. His oldest son is in about 4th or 5th grade. You should have seen his eyes light up when he saw the candy! He looked at me and couldn’t say “thank you” enough. The little boy’s name is Hamin.
During services, Hamin sat across from me and kept looking over and smiling at me, and every so often waving at me. During services, John (in Korean Joo-an), a little boy of four years old whose parents I had given a sugar egg for him came running to where I was sitting. He said in English, “thank you” and gave me a big hug, then he ran back to his daddy. I was happy they appreciated me giving them Easter candy. The preacher got up during services and let everyone know that the Catholics celebrate Easter in Korea, but the church of Christ doesn’t. I did pretty well at following in Korean, and we were studying a story about Jesus, but about half way through the sermon, I was getting really tired because it is hard to listen in Korean, so I just began reading my Bible and not trying to understand the preacher anymore. The sermon was from the gospel of John, and Jesus was teaching the people that his sheep know his voice and follow him. When we hear the teachings of Christ, we understand they are good and want to follow them. When I got tired, I read the story of Jesus rising Lazarus from the dead because it came right after that in the Bible. If Jesus can cause Lazarus to rise from the dead and rise from the dead himself, he is surely the one to listen to!
After church, another family who I had given them a sugar egg for their little girl encouraged their little girl to thank me, but she was so concerned with the egg. Her attention was only there, and she didn’t even know I was there. Also after church, a Korean lady had brought a bag full of macaroons to give out to everyone for Easter. I didn’t eat mine until I got home, and they had been made to make the Koreans who don’t believe in sugar happy. They weren’t sweet, not even the icing that was in the middle, and they put jam in the middle of the icing. It tasted so bad, no wonder the kids were so thrilled with the sugar eggs.
My daughter and I ate lunch and took a short nap, then we got up and went across town to an English speaking church. They were studying the book of Revelation, and my biggest thought while studying was the imagery was so strange, I wonder what it would be like if Hollywood made a movie about what we were discussing. There were locusts sent to the earth who were able to sting like a scorpion. These locusts had golden crown, teeth like lions, long hair like a woman, and the face of a man. I think they had some sort of breast plate too. I tell you know, it really takes a lot to try to understand what is going on in the book of Revelation. I feel lucky to know that the name for Revelation in Romanian is Apocalipsa. It gives me a clue that the kind of imagery being used is not the kind of imagery that we are used to in English literature. Many people who read strange things into Revelation just aren’t there because they don’t have the cultural background to understand it. Apocalyptic literature is a special kind of Jewish literature full of symbols that are interpreted completely different from how we interpret symbols in English. In English literature, one thing stands for another with our symbolism, but not so with Apocalyptic literature. In Apocalyptic literature, sometimes, you take a whole paragraph as a symbol. Even understanding that, it isn’t easy. Also, at that church, there was no mention of Easter.
A group of us went out to eat after church to the food court at E-Mart. Most of us got food from Burger King, but Hanul got food from a Korean restaurant at the food court. What she got was called nakji bibinbab which means Korean style squid fried rice. She also had kimchee (the cabbage loaded up with chili spice0, yellow pickled doused in chili spice, and bean sprout soup. She said the nakji bibinbab as really spicy. Except for the soup, it all looked spicy to me.
I suggested we go out for ice cream to celebrate Easter, but no one was up for it. A Korean guy in our group said in the 1980’s there was a huge Easter party with thousands of people downtown Seoul, but he said they don’t do it anymore. Malcom, the old missionary was with us, and he said he had to go home, and everyone else decided to go too. My daughter is taking a class where she is learning to build a computer, and she has been working on calculations all day long because she needs to find an answer to a problem to know how to proceed next on her computer. She was with me at church and out to eat all day. My Korean son in law had to work today. He has to work every other Sunday. He tried to get out of it once by changing jobs, and they promised he could have Sundays off because his other job always took Sundays away. This job promised him Sundays, but once he took it, they began taking every other Sunday away from him. That is life in Korea, and this is what a Korean Easter is like.