Tomorrow is a special day for moms and dads in Korea, because May 8 is Parents’ Day (어버이날). It has been part of Korean tradition to give parents carnation on this occasion as symbol of respect and gratitude. For five years, my husband and I have been doing the same thing: we wake up early in the morning to pin carnation boutonnieres on his parents’ shirts, which they wear with pride the whole day. In the evening, we have dinner with the family. Perhaps, as a myonuri (며느리: daughter-in-law), you do the same thing for your Korean parents-in-law every year, but if you’d like to do something different for them this time, here are some of the other things you can do to make your parents-in-law truly happy.
1.) Prepare a special breakfast for them.
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, this is also true with the in-laws. After all, there is nothing like the smell of a sumptuous meal in the morning. Try cooking your sibumonim‘s (시부모님: parents-in-law) favorite soup or stew, and prepare your best banchan (반찬: side dishes). Most Koreans eat rice for breakfast, complete with soup and some side dishes, so you can make a feast that will surely wow them when they wake up in the morning.
2.) Make them a card or write them a letter… in Korean.
I have never done this on Parents’ Day, but when I had my first Christmas with the in-laws, I made them a simple card, and posted it on their bedroom door, so it’s the first thing they would notice when they wake up in the morning. My father-in-law doesn’t like posters, calendars or anything plastered on walls and doors. He would remove them. That card, however, stays on their door. ^^
On Youtube, there are tons of how-to videos on making pop-up flower cards. This one is my favorite. It looks elegant and is easier to do.
This Mother’s Day card will make a great Parents’ Day card, too.
3.) Take them to a posh restaurant.
Most older Koreans prefer dining in Korean restaurants and in places that are familiar to them, but it won’t hurt to have them try other restaurants and different cuisines, so if you have budget for a real treat, why not surprise them with the best fine dining experience?
Try Lotte Hotel World’s La Seine Buffet. The food is fantastic!
4.) Go hiking with them.
Spring is the best time of the year to go hiking. A lot of older Koreans go to the mountain in spring to gather herbs and vegetables that are quite pricey in the market. Go ginseng-searching with your sibumonim on Parents’ Day. Who knows, you might actually enjoy the activity, and start doing it regularly? Hiking can be exciting… and it can also help shed off those extra pounds.
5.) Be “Cinderella” for a day.
My husband volunteered to help out with his parents’ business for the entire week. His parents are pleased, because this is a busy season. If your in-laws have a business you can help them with, and you have all the time in the world to spare, a day of doing extra work for them will mean a lot.
The extra work can also be a housechore that you haven’t done in a while, like cleaning your in-laws’ bedroom (or the entire house), helping your si omonim (시어머님: mother-in-law) with the laundry, ironing si abonim‘s (시아버님: father-in-law) favorite shirts, etc. Before you say, “I’m not a slave!”, remember that this suggestion is meant only for a day, Parents’ Day. That is, if you don’t live with the in-laws. Think about the myonuris who have to do these chores regularly, because they live with their sibumonim.
6.) Hold a noraebang (노래방: karaoke) concert with them.
If your in-laws are not the killjoy type, invite them to the noraebang for a night of party. Team up with your husband. Your in-laws and other family members who are present will pair up, too. Each pair will select a song and sing duet. Karaokes usually score singers. You can use those scores to choose the best team. Our family did this once, and everyone had a terrific time. In fact, my father-in-law didn’t want to go home. ^^
I am sure that there are a number of ways we can make Parents’ Day memorable for our in-laws, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is not what gifts we give them or how we have impressed them with our efforts. What makes Parents’ Day meaningful for parents-in-law is how we treat them even when it’s not their special day. Some in-laws can be pain in the neck sometimes, but here in Korea, they are our second parents. No matter how tough parents can be, they deserve love, respect and understanding.
어버이날 축하합니다, 아버님… 어머님!