4.117 Jesa Spread

Cycle 4 – Item 117

2 (Thu) May 2013

Jesa Spread


by Mom

at my parents’ home

-Geumgok, Bundang, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family, Mom + Dad, various paternal-side relatives, including KW

For posterity, I photographed the jesa ritual itself, including the foods as they appear on the offering table before being redistributed for consumption by the family.

Food items included apples + pears + melons + chestnuts + jujubes + spinach namul + gosari namul + doraji namul + baek kimchi + hobak jeon + pan-fried dubu + fish jeon + bindae jeon + pan-fried yellow croaker + bulgogi + muu guk + rice cakes + rice + sujeonggwa  + sikhye.

Our slacker version.

The spread is much more varied and extravagant in its full form, but we have a small family, less people to eat the food afterwards, so we keep it relatively simple, though we do try to respect the ritual’s essence.

The basic idea is to summon the spirits of the ancestors and serve them a feast.
For Confucian reasons, the ritual is a guy thing, with only men in the line of succession directly involved (KW, who is my grandparents’ daughter’s son, is not in the line of succession).

My cousin KW, who lives in New York, happens to be in town on business, so he had a rare opportunity to join the ritual.  Upon landing at 4PM this afternoon, he hopped on a bus from the airport and headed straight over to my parents’ home so that he could participate, a first for him.  What a guy

Korean spirits can be summoned from the afterlife by swirling booze over burning incense.

When my father complained that I was being disruptive by taking photos, I explained: “I’ll need accurate visual records to help me set up when I’m celebrating your death someday.”

Because Korean spirits are so well-mannered, they require utensils to feed, preferably sterling silver, so spoons are placed in the rice and chopsticks on random dishes.

In addition to 2 bowls of rice sets for my grandparents, a 3rd is laid out for my grandfather’s first wife, who tragically died right after they were married.  My grandmother, my grandfather’s second wife, insisted on the additional setting lest her predecessor get angry and wreak havoc.

Meanwhile, the womenfolk remain in the kitchen to prepare dinner for the living.
For some reason, kimchi and spicy items are not placed on the ritual table.
The men congratulating themselves on a job well done, because they did all the hard work.

(See also BOOZE)


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