Happy Chuseok! This year, September 30th through October 2nd is the official Chuseok celebration.
Chuseok is one of Korea’s major national holidays and is often compared to a Korean Thanksgiving. Chuseok literally means autumn eve or the “night with the best autumn moonlight.” It’s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar on the full moon.
During the Chuseok holiday, a majority of Koreans visit their hometowns to spend time with family and relatives. However, this year the Korean government recommends citizens to refrain from travelling home and visiting family and relatives to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
FUN FACT: Korean ancestors used to look at the giant moon in the night sky and thank the moon for that year’s good harvest. This is because they believed that making a wish or praying to the brightest full moon would bring them good luck.
PREPARING THE FOOD
Preparing the food is a lengthy process that involves many hands due to the quantity and variety of foods to be made. The food is meant to serve the ancestors. Therefore, Koreans believe that the more effort you put into making it, the more respect you are paying.
When it comes to Chuseok specialties, songpyeon is the most popular. This crescent moon-shaped rice cake is made with rice from the first harvest of the year, filled with beneficial ingredients such as powdered sesame, red beans, brown sugar, and chestnuts. The finishing touch is a fragrant pine scent, achieved by layering the cake with pine needles. Besides songpyeon, various other foods and fruits are served during the festival. Seasoned vegetables, pork, beef, and fish are common and the remaining choices vary by region.
FUN FACT: Though songpyeon used to be made solely by women, nowadays the whole family participates. Also, ladies, take note! There’s a belief that a person who makes songpyeon in the prettiest shape will meet a great spouse and have a beautiful baby, so make it count!
Charye is an ancestor memorial ritual that has been carried out for thousands of years in Korea. On the morning of Chuseok, family members gather in their homes to hold a memorial service for their ancestors, usually up to around four generations of those who have passed. During the ceremony, food, fruits, and beverages are offered to them. Each dish has a designated spot on the table and there are traditional ways to set the dishes, such as lighting candles before alcohol is poured into three different cups and bowing twice afterward.
After the ceremony, everyone sits together to enjoy the delicious food they prepared and used for the ceremony as they reunite and bond with their family members.
FUN FACT: The house of the eldest son is usually the site of the gathering. The eldest male descendant from the line of eldest sons (even if he is not the current eldest male in the family) usually presides over the ceremony.
A variety of folk games are played on Chuseok to celebrate the coming of autumn and rich harvest.
Ganggangsullae is traditional folk dance done by women to pray for a bountiful harvest. They come together under the brightest full moon, forming a circle as they hold each other’s hands. As the lead singer starts singing, the rest sing the refrain “Ganggangsullae” as they rotate clockwise. The dance gets faster and faster as the tempo speeds up and can last until dawn.
FUN FACT: Ganggangsullae dates back to the Joseon dynasty when the Korean army used to dress the young women of the village in military uniforms and had them circle the mountains to give off the appearance that the Korean military was greater in number than it actually was. The Korean army enjoyed many victories thanks to this scare tactic.
K-POP IDOLS AND CHUSEOK
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Many K-pop idols make sure to share their Chuseok greetings and have thus helped to educate many international fans of this special holiday from Korea. Many idols dress up in traditional clothes and share their well wishes to fans. One of the first ones to do so this year were the K-pop group ITZY. Check out their video below!
To learn more about Chuseok, you can read out other articles about this important holiday by clicking here.
Have you ever had the chance to celebrate this special day in Korea? Which traditions did you participate in? Do you celebrate Chuseok with your family outside of Korea?
What is your favorite time about the Chuseok season? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @whatthekpop1!
Polina has been recognized as an Honorary Korean Travel Ambassador since 2013. She always makes an effort to share the many aspects of Korea throughout the world and to express her affections for Korea. She graduated with two qualifications: Organizer of Tourism and Leisure and Management of Hotel and Restaurant.
Media: SBS News, Visit Korea
Featured Image: Amy Leigh for WTK