All About Chuseok: South Korea’s Harvest Festival and Cultural Celebration

Chuseok is approaching, just a week away! To those who are not familiar with Korea’s National Holiday, Chuseok(추석), let me introduce all about it.

What is Chuseok?

Chuseok, also known as Hangawi in North Korea, is one of South Korea’s most significant traditional holidays. Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, Chuseok is often referred to as the Korean Thanksgiving Day. Chuseok is a time to give thanks for the bountiful harvest and pay respects to their ancestors. It’s a moment when families come together to bond, share traditional foods, play traditional games, and honor their heritage. 

At its core, Chuseok is a time for Koreans to give thanks for the bountiful harvest and celebrate the abundance of food. Families come together to pay respects to their ancestors through a ritual known as Charye, where they offer food and perform ancestral rites. Also, many Koreans also visit the graves of their ancestors during Chuseok to clean the burial sites, make offerings, and pay their respects. This practice is called Seongmyo, and it is a way to remember and honor deceased family members.

Koreans spend Chuseok with families and friends, but mostly with families. During the holiday seasons, many people travel to their hometown to gather with families. 

The Customs and Traditions of Chuseok

1. Charye: Ancestral Memorial Rite

At the heart of Chuseok is the Charye, a solemn ancestral memorial rite. Families gather to honor their ancestors by preparing a lavish spread of food and making offerings on an ancestral table. This deeply spiritual ritual is a way to express gratitude and seek blessings for the future. 

2. Seongmyo: Grave Visits

Many Koreans also visit the graves of their ancestors during Chuseok to clean the burial sites, make offerings, and pay their respects. This practice is called Seongmyo, and it is a way to remember and honor deceased family members. 

3. Traditional Clothing

During Chuseok, you’ll often see people dressed in Hanbok, the elegant and colorful traditional Korean clothing. Hanbok is colorful and elegant, and it adds to the festive atmosphere of the holiday. It is common to see people of all ages wearing Hanbok during Chuseok.

4. Family Gatherings

Chuseok is a time for family reunions. People travel to their hometowns to spend time with their relatives, share meals, and catch up with loved ones. Family gatherings are an essential part of the holiday, and it reinforces the importance of family in Korean culture.

5. Songpyeon Making 

Songpeyon(송편) is a traditional Chuseok food, and making these rice cakes is a common family activity. Families come together to knead and shape the rich dough, fill it with sweet ingredients like sesame seeds, red bean paste, or chestnuts, and then steam or boil them. It’s both a delicious treat and a bonding experience.

6. Traditional Games and Dances

Folk games are a fun of Chuseok celebrations. Jultagi(줄타기), archery, and ssireum (traditional Korean wrestling) are some of the traditional games that people may play during the holiday. Also in some regions, especially in the countryside, people participate in the Ganggangsullae(강강술래) dance during Chuseok night. It involves forming a large circle, singing traditional songs, and dancing under the moonlight. It’s a communal and joyful activity. 

7. Food and Feasting

Special Chuseok foods are prepared, including Songpyeon, freshly harvested fruits, vegetables, and various Korean dishes. These feasts are an essential part of the Chuseok celebration, and people indulge in deliciousmeals.

Overall, Chuseok is a time for Koreans to come together with their loved ones, express gratitude for the harvest, and celebrate their cultural heritage through various traditions and activities. It’s a festive and meaningful holiday that strengthens family bonds and community ties

When is Chuseok?

Chuseok is a specific date on the lunar calendar and is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. This typically falls in September or October on the Gregorian Calendar. This year of 2023, Chuseok is on the 29th of September. 

Alongside Seolnal, another significant traditional Korean holiday, Chuseok is one of the most anticipated holidays in Korea each year. This is primarily because Chuseok provides an extended period of rest and relaxation. Typically, the day before and after Chuseok are holidays, allowing Koreans to enjoy at least three days of rest. However, this year, Koreans are fortunate to have a six-day break! This extended holiday period includes the weekend, a temporary holiday, and Gaecheonjeol, all consecutively.

I hope this posting has helped you gain a better understanding of Korea’s National Holiday, Chuseok. If there are any questions, please feel free to comment below. In my next post, I’ll be introducing all the activities that you can enjoy during the Chuseok holidays, so stay tuned!

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