Another jesa is on for our family which is a typical routine at a home of the eldest son. My father, the eldest of six, has been in charge of our family’s jesa (제사) – a traditional rite where you pay respect to your ancestors – for years that I can remember. My mom, who has married my dad at the age of twenty-four, has now become a master of preparing jesa-sang (제사상: the table setting for jesa). There are many things to prep for a jesa but mostly it is the dozens of traditional dishes that needed to be made as an offering to the ancestors. Since both daughters were here in Korea for the time of this jesa my mom was overjoyed as she was not alone in the kitchen to cook out all the jesa food.
While the women were hard at work in the kitchen, the two “boys” of the house were busy sniffling around as the smell of the food gets thicker. Mom’s puppies are black and white – literally. The black Sapsal-gae (삽살개) is named Gomtangee and he is a kind of a Korean sheep dog. I heard that the breed is not too common in Korea as Sapsalgaes were once considered endangered species. The smaller (but fierce) one is Luru and he is a Maltese – probably the most common dog breed you can see in Korea.
This is just like a Thanksgiving torture for dogs but worse because jesa returns so often – we do it for three generations up from my father’s generation so that is.. up to my great-great grandparents. The ritual is held on the day that they had passed away so yes, it is a routine in our home that we do year around.
So what about the dogs during the ritual? Nothing much to worry about. The Korean sheep dog is very smart and this guy’s interest is always more on his owners than the food. The little one is more like your usual puppy but as he spend more time with his big bro we can sense that he is maturing.. slowly. The process of actual jesa is quite short and it lasts about 30 minutes or so. Afterwards, the family gets to share the food and of course rewards for the boys for their patience.