The Korean Thanksgiving
If this is your first year in Korea, you might wonder, What is Chuseok? I mean, come on. This year(2017), we have a 10-day long holiday weekend. It’s super rare. It’s always great to have a long holiday break, but isn’t it better to rest knowing what it really is?
Chuseok, in one word, is a Korean Thanksgiving. It is celebrated on August 15th of every year, in Lunar calendar. By saying this, dates of Chuseok holiday will change from year to year. Along with Seollal(the Lunar New Years), Chuseok is considered as the most important holiday in Korea. There are some variations of the name of this holiday — the most popular and common term is Chuseok(추석), and the others are Hangawi(한가위), Jungchoo(중추), Jungchoojeol(중추절), and Gabe il(가배일).
The record doesn’t mention when exactly people started to celebrate it, but according to the recording of Silla, they already celebrated Chuseok. So people assume that it has begun before Three Kingdoms of Korea(from 57 BC to 668 AD), which was made up with three kingdoms; Goguryeo(고구려), Silla(신라), and Baekje(백제).
To celebrate Chuseok, the traditional way is for families to gather and give a memorial service called Charye(차례) to the ancestors. People cook and prepare food for the ancestors and literally just make a dining table for the ancestors’ souls. Also, people would go visit their ancestors in the graveyard to clean up weeds and to pray/report any family news. This is to thank ancestors for having us to be able to harvest the best result. Chuseok is in autumn – the season of harvest, and the day of Chuseok, the brightest full moon rises.
On this day, adults would give new clothes to children in the same family as presents. From in the past, people cooked and shared food not only with families and relatives but also with neighbors, so there is an old saying, “Not more, not less, but may it always be just like Hangawi(Chuseok).”
There are several events happening on Chuseok. Bull fight(소싸움; So ssah woom), Gang Gang Soollae(강강술래), Korean wrestling(씨름; Ssireum), Moon greeting(달맞이; Dalmaji), Rope fight(줄다리기; Jool darhigi) and etc.
Gang Gang Soollae; 강강술래 – Image from Google
Korean Wrestling; 씨름 – Image from Google
Songpyeon (Rice cakes with different filling; sweet potato, sesame seed, chestnut, beans etc.)