SEOUL -- South Koreans would have to spend an average of 380,000 won ($235) to prepare for "Charye," a Confucian ritual of preparing tables full of food dishes for deceased ancestors, during the Lunar New Year holiday. The cost of the ritual has consistently been increasing every year due to inflation.
On Seollal, the traditional Korean holiday for Lunar New Year Day, and Chuseok, the traditional Korean autumn harvest thanksgiving holiday, non-Christian families traditionally arrange tables laden with dishes encompassing meat, fish, rice, vegetables, fruits, and confectioneries for the Charye rite.
This Confucian practice, aimed at seeking prosperity and good health for the living family members from deceased ancestors, becomes a venue for family gatherings after the ritual to have members share offerings and alcoholic drinks used in the rite.
Many families approach the preparation of Charye with great seriousness. Days before Seollal or Chuseok, wives typically gather at the eldest family member's home to diligently prepare the various dishes for the rite. Usually, a dozen dishes grace the Charye table, with the eldest son leading the family in the offering ceremony.
According to market data released by the state-operated Korea Agro Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation (aT), South Koreans would have to spend an average of 380,000 won at supermarkets and megastores to prepare a Charye table for Seollal. State data showed that as of December 2023, it cost a four-person family an average of 140,000 won to dine at a restaurant.
aT's data showed that the overall prices of fruits, vegetables, and meat have increased before the traditional Lunar New Year holiday. The prices of vegetables were especially affected by cold weather that swept across the Korean peninsula from early January to mid-January.
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