Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and I think I can safely say that I am the only one in Seosan who will be lighting the menorah. Actually, that’s not quite true. Last night I met a software programmer visiting on business who happened to be from Jerusalem. I asked him how he felt about spending Hanukkah in Korea. He told me it doesn’t matter where you are, but to just enjoy the time with the people you’re with. To that I say La’Chaim!

Though there won’t be any latkes or brisket this year, being Jewish in Korea isn’t too bad -a least once you accept the fact that there will undoubtedly be some sort of pork/pig product in nearly every meal you eat. Unlike the States, religion is topic that comes up frequently when speaking with Koreans, even if you’ve just met them for the first time. Normally when I tell people I’m Jewish they initially respond with a quizzical look, then I try to explain it a little more, sometimes drawing the Star of David in the air on a piece of paper. I can tell they understand because normally they will say, “Einstein!” in a very excited voice, referring to, of course, Albert Einstein, the great physicist and thinker, and apparently the only Jewish person Koreans seem to recognize. This is both a good and bad thing. One the one hand, people assume you are intelligent and exceptionally good at math, which is flattering. On the other hand, being compared to Einstein is a lot to live up to, especially when one considers that I couldn’t calculate myself out of a paper bag (how I got into said bag in the first place is beyond me).

So tonight I will be lighting the candles alone, but all the while knowing that deep down, I’m not really on my own. All around the world people will be reciting the same prayers, acting out the same ceremony, and singing the same songs. Even Einstein would agree. When you’re celebrating a holiday in foreign land, everything is relative.

Related Listening: “One Big Holiday” – My Morning Jacket


7 responses to “Hanu-Korea

  1. well its snowing here and everything is all white and peaceful and pretty – a very perfect Hanukkah – except for the fact that you are not here! I am making latkes tonight and lighting the candles and thinking of you!

  2. Eli!

    Chabad of Korea can help you with a hot Latkes!

    Happy Hanukah!

    P.S. find their info above or just go to http://www.jewish.kr

  3. Target was totally stocked up on Hanukkah dog clothes right next to the santa costumes, but the Hanukkah ones were way more suave and stylin’. Nobody put up that little menorah at the Woolly this year, which i guess made me kinda sad. But then, the Christmas decorations seemed kinda halfassed too…oh well.

    Man, last Christmas eve you were awesome and let me leave an hour early. One year later, I thank you for that, it was so helpful. Have a happy Hanukkah and i’ll try to trick somebody like Melinda into bathing with some kind of confectionary treat in your honor.

  4. Happy Hanukkah, Eli! I’ve been reading your blog faithfully for months and I love it. It’s fun to hear your 24-yr-old voice, since I really knew you best 20 yrs ago. Because of all the snow, your parents couldn’t make it down here for latkes last night. Hi from all of us – and Happy Hanukkah.

  5. As we lit the candles last night, dad and I were commenting that this was our first Hanukkah without any of our children at home. A bittersweet thought–on the one hand, I am a tad sad about it, but on the other hand, I am so happy that you are all starting your own adult lives and traditions. Yes, it was bittersweet to be lighting the candles sans our children, but I feel incredibly blessed and proud. We will save some latkes and brisket in the freezer for you! Happy Hanukkah. P.S. cute dog, but no where near as cute as Wrigley and Ruby–wish I had known about the cute Hanukkah dog attire at target!

  6. You are definitely not alone for Hanukkah, Eli. We had neighbors who were near enough to walk through the snow come to dinner when your parents had to cancel because of the snow. Susan made sure to tell everyone how she reads your blog religously. We love your writing a look forward to reading it for a long time (maybe not from Korea always). But you DID miss some exceptionally good latkes. Brian’s driving over through the snow tonight to help us with the leftovers. He’s become quite adept at snow driving in his little Subaru wagon. Happy Hanukkah and New Year from the Schulkins!

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