Pigs for the holidays?Here’s this week’s tip on Korean language and customs:
Q. I went to buy some cards to send out for the holidays earlier this week and found something very unusual. In the West, images that appear on cards at this time of the year would usually be something like a Santa Claus or the Virgin Mary. But, in Korea, I’ve seen a lot of pigs appearing on Christmas cards. Does that mean anything culturally?
A. In Korea, during the height of the shopping season right before Christmas, vendors usually begin to sell cards which celebrate New Year’s Day as well. Since the beginning of a new year is of such high importance to Koreans, many people combine the message of both holidays. Exchanging cards in Korea can extend well into the end of January or even into February, depending on the lunar calendar of the year in question. Many Koreans still adhere to the lunar calender, as it was a vital tool when the economy depended on farming.
For Koreans, the year 2007, which is the year of pig, will be one of the luckiest years, as pigs are symbols of good fortune. The year 2006, the year of the dog, has been a lucky year too, because, according to the lunar calender, the year happened to have two dates, known as ipchun in Korean ― Feb. 4, 2006 and Feb. 4, 2007 ― which mark the beginning of spring. In Korea, it is believed that a couple who marry in a year with two symbols of spring will be very fortunate, especially because that means their first child could be born in the year of the pig.