Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Lifestyle – Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving Celebration

We are in a mid-Autumn and in Korea, everybody is so excited to get ready quickly for celebrating Chuseok (추석), a Korean thanksgiving.

Chuseok, originally known as Hangawi (한가위), means the great middle of Autumn, is a major harvest festival and a three day holiday in the middle of 8th month of the Lunar year. This event is an oriented day on 8th month in every year, since full moon must appear in the sky.
The primary reason for Chuseok in South Korea is to honor ancestors and deceased relatives, but the holiday also serves the purpose of keeping the family together in a time when work and other obligations may separate people. Koreans celebrate and pray for their hard working year on this day, and they wish to have a productive year ahead.
South Koreans wear their traditional clothes, Hanbok (한복), on this day and they travel to their hometowns to meet their families and pay respect to their ancestors. They visit the tombs of their immediate ancestors to trim plants and clean the area around the tomb, and offer food, drink, and crops to their ancestors. Harvest crops are attributed to the blessing of ancestors.
There is so much more about this interesting event and what Koreans do on this day…

1-      Traditional Customs:

. Charye (차례)
On the day of Chuseok, it is necessary to honor ancestors for the opportunities that have come throughout the year. The Charye is one of the most important memorial rites to be performed. Performed in the morning, the Charye ceremony consists of placing various tributes foods in an arrangement on a table before saying a good prayer. In general, rice is placed on the northern end of the table, fruits and vegetables on the southern end, meat on the western end, and rice cakes and drinks on the eastern end. The Charye rite honors the past four generations and calls upon their spirits’ protection for the future.

. Seongmyo (성묘) & Beolcho (벌초)
Along with visiting ancestral homes and paying respect through rites, it is also a tradition to honor ancestors by visiting graves or urns. South Korean people usually say a few words to pay respects to their fallen relatives’ spirits. It is also common to leave a tribute such as food or wine. While visiting graves during Seongmyo, South Koreans will clean headstones and the area around the grave through a process known as Beochlo. During Beolcho, people may pull weeds, plant flowers, scrub dirt off of headstones, and rake fresh dirt to the surface of the grave plot. This is a process that is representative of the filial piety and respect for ancestors that is common in South Korean culture.

. Feast
To relax and enjoy the company of family after a busy summer and spring, people in South Korea celebrate Chuseok through a great feast. This elaborate meal consists of local vegetables that are in season along with some favorites that have become a regular aspect of the Chuseok holiday.

. Chuseokbim (추석빔)
Just as the Chinese purchase new clothes during the Lunar New Year, it is a custom of South Korean to buy new outfits before Chuseok. Traditionally, South Koreans would purchase traditional garb to celebrate the holiday. While some people still do uphold the old traditions of Chuseokbim, many South Koreans opt to purchase western style dresses and suits instead. This allows them to celebrate the mis-autumn holiday in nice clothes while also having practical clothing for the future.

2-      Folk Games:

. Ssireum (씨름)
A popular sport in many South Korean regions for a long time, Ssireum is a type of wrestling that has strong ties to the Chuseok holiday. In some areas of South Korea, large Ssireum competitions are held to determine the strongest man among the villages. The way the contest works is that two men enter the ring and wrestle until one of their upper bodies’ touches the ground. The person whose upper body touched the ground is eliminate and a new challenger enters the ring. This continues until they are no challengers. The last person standing in the ring when all of the challengers have been eliminated is considered the winner and the strongest man and some kind of prize depending on the village and region. Sometimes this prize is a calf, large supply of rice, or other useful item.

.Ganggangsullae (강강술래)
Traditionally, Korean women would wear Hanbok (한복) and gather in a large circle while linking hands. While in this circle, the women would participate in a circle dance called Ganggangsullae. This dance is very rhythmic and typically performed while singing a song. It is common for the Gangagngsullae to be performed during Chuseok for fun and to honor the cultural traditions that surround the holiday.

3-      Food:

This photo of "Songpyeon" was taken by my boyfriend on his Chuseok celebration, 2015. And that heart-shaped one was created for me *_*

Since Chuseok is a holiday oriented around a great feast, there is also a large selection of unique South Korean food that is eaten. One of the most common holiday foods of Chuseok is Songpyeon (송ㅍ편). Songpyeon is a sweet rice cake that is enjoy as a snack or dessert. It is consisted of rice powder dough that has been stuffed with sesame seeds, red beans, chestnuts, and other fillings that vary from region to region. Songpyeon is steamed and covered with pine needles for a fresh scent. During Chuseok, South Koreans also enjoy rice liquor (막걸리) with their friends and family.
Hangwa & Yak
Another popular Korean traditional food that people eat during Chuseok is Hangwa (한과). It is an artistic food decorated with natural colors and textured with patterns. Hangwa is made with rice flour, honey, fruit, and roots. People use edible natural ingredients to express various colors, flavors, and tastes. Because of its decoration and nutrition, Koreans eat Hangwa not only during Chuseok, but also for special events, for instance, weddings, birthday parties, and marriages.
The most famous types of Hangwa are Yakgwa (약과), Yugwa (유과), and Dasik (다식). Yakgwa is a medicinal cookie which is made of fried rice flour dough ball (as you can see its name consists of Yak () meaning of medicine in Korean language.). Yukgwa is a fried cookie that also refers to a flower. Dasik is a tea cake that people enjoy with tea.

4-      Chuseok Gifts (추석 선물):
What is the most exciting part of every celebration? Yes! Gifting. In Korea, they have their own gift etiquette for this event. Korean people give their families and grannies valued presents. I can remember when I was in Korea, On September, there were tables everywhere in department stores and people could signed gift certificates for their Chuseok gifts. Chuseok gifts are typically including: The amount of money or valued certificates, red meat packages, food-related packages, dried fruits and other simple and small things you think will make your beloved one happy! During this event, you can see old women in department stores selling beautiful and delicious rice cakes in different colors and shapes.

At the end, I wish you a great Chuseok holiday and I hope can experience this exciting event’ feeling again as soon as possible.


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