Wednesday, November 21, 2012

함 (Ham)

No, not the food. The wedding ham (pronounced hahm).  This tradition is no longer practiced on a usual basis, but a few of my friends and I had the pleasure of witnessing one Monday night.

One of my phone friends is getting married. He (for whatever reason) decided to do this ceremony with his wife's family. The groom will travel to the mother-in-law's house with his friends on one scheduled day. He comes with a "treasure box" containing gifts. It's kind of like a dowry that a bride might bring with her, only the groom offers this to the bride. Before entering the perimeter (passing the fence that surrounds the house), the bride must break a basket (by stepping on it). This is done to ward off misfortune, as the sound supposedly scares away any bad luck/spirits/etc. Once successfully done, he can now enter through the gate and go to the front door, where he must shout "Ham saseyo!" or "Buy the treasure box!"

...There's actually a lot more to all this than I'm explaining. The ceremony that we watched was a very shortened version of the historical tradition. Therefore, I can only continue by telling you what I saw Monday night.

The bride's maids (or really anyone except the bride) may answer the door to let the groom in. If he is let in, then he presents the box, bows to the family, and food celebrations begin.

Before going to see this, my friends and I were all at the phone shop talking about what was going to happen later that night. It was kind of hard for our Korean friend to thoroughly explain every part of the tradition. For example, he mentioned  that the groom's friends would find entry into the house much more difficult. They had to get some sort of permission to enter, just as the groom does. People from inside the house would try to bribe the others with food, etc. The friends might be able to get in by being handed envelopes with money inside. They could recieve these and take one step closer to the house. We, luckily, didn't have to do this. We were swiftly pulled into the house after the groom.

At this point, I feel like I'm doing a really bad job at explaining all of this. I will resort to researching the correct information later, so that I don't fill your mind with a made-up tradition. So, please wait a bit! I will finish by saying that dinner (cooked by the mother-in-law) was fantastic! There was more than enough to go around, and it felt like an early Thanksgiving dinner. There were two separate tables (probably because there wasn't enough room to bring the two together), one with the bride's family and the other with the groom and his friends. From time to time, the bride would join our table and eat with us for a bit before going to sit with her family again. Our Korean friend mentioned that this time together was especially important because during the wedding, the groom might not be able to spend much time with his friends. Instead, he would be busy greeting everyone in attendence, and speaking to elders and other family members. This time was a good moment for him to be with his friends before the big day.

'Till next time,

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