Love Potion #14

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April 14, 2013 by travelinggrits

If you thought seven was an auspicious number — if you’re looking for love, perhaps you should think twice.

I wrote a previous post about Pepero Day (11/11), on which friends exchange chocolate-dipped shortbread sticks in Cupid-like fashion. But did you know that in Korea the fourteenth day of each month has its own special love-related holiday?

On Valentine’s Day, the women give men chocolate. But the men can’t relax too long. March 14 is White Day, when men return the favor by giving candy to their crushes. The only exception might be today (April 14) — Black Day, the Korean equivalent of “Singles Awareness Day,” when despondent singles eat jjajangmyeon, noodles with black sauce. This unofficial holiday is still a money-maker, though — at least for
Chinese restaurants.

But surprisingly, despite what sometimes seems to be a rampant focus on romanticism, from couples sporting matching outfits to the popularity of TV dramas, the culmination of this fervor, the wedding, is in itself is not an important affair.

There is no superstition about the bride and groom seeing each other before the wedding, so the celebrity-style photos are taken long before the big day. Most weddings are held in wedding halls, where the day’s lineup is posted on large boards and masses of family and friends push in and out, sometimes in less than 30 minutes.

My host family asked me to attend a relative’s wedding this past weekend, and for weeks I looked forward to snapping a sneak peek into this milestone.

Well, I didn’t quite get it — or at least, not in the way I expected. Perhaps this time I was the one over-romanticizing.

We traveled to the wedding hall location, arriving far in advance of the 1:30 time slot. My host mother produced a pair of heels from a plastic bag in her purse. We greeted the bride as she took pre-ceremony pictures. We loitered in the hallway and got tickets to the wedding luncheon. At 1:06, we headed to the dining hall.

The buffet-style serving room was a madhouse, a crush of people heaping their plates with all sorts of delicacies from slices of sushi to bite-size cakes. I know Koreans usually eat at a hurried pace, but I couldn’t imagine how we would complete the meal in less than 20 minutes.

We didn’t.

My host family went back for second and third plates. I glanced at my watch. Maybe 1:30 meant the time spent eating beforehand?

It was nearing 2:45 when we exited the dining hall. We marched past the room where the bridge had been, the easel outside the door now devoid of the label with the couple’s names. We alighted the escalator and walked into the sunshine.

I turned to my host mother, confused. “Were we going to watch the wedding?”

She looked at me with a shocked face of realization and chuckled. “Oh, that’s right! You wanted to watch that!” She told me I could go watch a ceremony at a wedding hall on any Saturday or Sunday — although I doubt the uninvited foreigner creeping in the background would be too welcome. “Wedding Crashers,” much?

I guess this wasn’t the opportunity for sentimental cultural comparison that I had dreamed of. But if there was one lesson learned, perhaps it was that the way to one’s heart is, after all, through one’s stomach.



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