Week 11: Celebrating Chuseok
Gwangju Travel Blog› entry 13 of 33 › view all entries
In order to best explain the Korean version of Thanksgiving let me quote an article from www.theholidayzone.com:
"Chuseok, the “Harvest Moon Festival,” is one of the three biggest holidays in Korea. It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in September or October. Chuseok is a time for families to give thanks for the year’s harvest.
Traditionally, Chuseok is celebrated over a three-day period. Koreans celebrate this holiday in their hometowns. But first, they have to get to their hometowns. ... And getting there isn’t easy! With most of the country’s population traveling, traffic is incredible. Roads resemble parking lots as cars and buses creep along, bumper to bumper.
Once weary travelers reach their hometowns, there’s work to be done. Family members spend the day before Chuseok preparing traditional foods for the feast. The most famous of these is songpyeon. To make this special rice cake, rice from the new harvest is ground into flour. It is then boiled and kneaded to make dough. The women (and often the children) in the family shape pieces of this dough in circles. They stuff it with such things as honey, sesame seeds, dried fruit, chestnuts, and bean paste, then fold the circles into half-moon shapes. Finally, they arrange the songpyeon on a bed of freshly-picked pine needles and steam.
On the morning of Chuseok, family members put on their best outfits" usually traditional hanbok" and honor their ancestors with a feast of foods from the new harvest. The feast includes rice, rice wine, and songpyeon, along with kimchi nuts, fruit, and fish.
Families often visit the tombs of their ancestors to pay tribute. First, they tend to the graves. They cut grass, pull weeds, and clean up the surrounding area. Then comes the final Chuseok ceremony. Family members perform a formal bow at the graves to express gratitude to their ancestors. They may also leave food offerings.
Once the ancestral ceremonies are over, families eat and celebrate together. Older family members often tell stories to the younger ones. Later in the day, families may play traditional games.
Our five day Chuseok vacation was very low-key. We had originally discussed going to visit a city on the coast with Grace but we changed our minds when we heard about how bad traffic can get. The bus trip from Seoul to Gwangju usually takes about 3.5 hours; on Chuseok day there were traffic reports of the trip often taking anywhere from 8 to 10 hours, yuck! I'm very glad we decided not to be adventurous.
Whereas Justin was content relaxing in the apartment I did venture out on Sunday afternoon to make a much-needed trip to E-mart (we had been living on various types of Ramen for the last 10 days) so Grace and I braved the crowds and headed into the bustling grocery store.
After returning to our apartment with the groceries Grace prepared us a delicious Chuseok dinner. Earlier in the day she had celebrated with her aunt and cousins. She was still stuffed from her holiday lunch but she made us a lot of food and even treated us to songpyeon, the traditional rice cakes that her aunt had made.