What do Koreans Do and Eat during Chuseok (autumn/ harvest festival)
한국인들에게 “추석을 샌다”는 의미는 무엇일까
Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving Holiday
Definition of “Chuseok” (秋夕 in Chinese characters, also known as “Hangawi”) is equivalent holiday for Koreans as Thanksgivings. In many ways the two festivals are similar.
It is a time of “huge movement” for Koreans, as they leave Seoul or the city they are currently residing to make a living, to their hometown, which are generally outside of Seoul.
It is one of the two major festivals enjoyed by Koreans, “Seol,” which is Korean Lunar New Year, and “Chuseok.” It is a three-day holiday in Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.
Since everyone leaves for their hometown to spend time with their parents and big family as well as give ancestral worship, it is a “war” trying to find and get tickets to home including bus, train, plane tickets. Many spend a time of horror inside their cars, which may take from 5 to 8 hours, which normally takes 2 to 4 hours, stuck in the hideous, inescapable traffic.
What do Koreans Do During Chuseok?
In the past, Koreans used to wear Hanbok, Korean Traditional Custom, when visiting their parents and elderly in their families, wish upon the full moon for family welfare and happiness, and play Korean traditional games.
Many dress properly or wear Hanbok to their parents’ home bringing gifts such as ginseng, cow bone/ meat, fish, fruits, and cooking oil (which means “good flow” in work and life). They take time to bow before their parents bidding them healthy and prosperous life.
The first son of each Korean household (if they are living abroad or their living is not sufficient to serve and provide home to all family members, there can be exceptions to who provides the home for gathering) set and prepare the table for the family’s ancestors. Preparing the table for the ancestor is not an easy job. Many women find it a big burden to prepare 3 to 5 rows of Korean dishes that start from rice, hot soup, Korean dishes, Korean rice cake, chestnuts, fish, beef, and traditional drinks and desserts. It takes a full day to buy all the ingredients and cook, as you can imagine from the picture below.
After ancestral worship, families gather to have a big lunch. It is like Thanksgiving in that families try to prepare all kinds of Korean food and dishes to feed their family members, who have gathered together once in a long time, well.
What do Koreans Enjoy Chuseok?
After ancestral worship and usually lunch, families gather to catch up with each others lives and play games (or watch TV/ movies).
Let us introduce “Yut,” a Korean traditional game still played during current day, Chuseok.
“Yut,” Korean Traditional Game
Playing “yut” is quite simple, if you just have a mat to through the wooden sticks inside and “yut,” the four wooden sticks. The sticks have one round surface and one flat surface on each side.
First, you hold all four sticks (yut) inside one palm.
Then, you should throw the sticks inside the mat, and you will lose your turn if you throw outside of it.
Depending on how many flat surfaces you have on the top, how many spaces you can move up is decided. For instance, with one flat space, you can move just one space and up to five spaces in the order as shown above.
The first one to come back to the starting point after making a trip around the Yut board becomes the winner!
What do Koreans Eat during Chuseok?
Koreans usually eat special dishes and desserts, which are normally not eaten daily. They eat so much that they cannot eat and to the extent that there are images like this below:
Koreans generally eat the food here during Chuseok:
- Song Pyun, a type of Korean Rice Cake, eaten during special occasions
Young ones try to find the “sweet” Song Pyun, a type of Korean rice cake, with sugar or honey with sesame inside. But some Song Pyeon contain chestnut, black beans, red beans. It is difficult to make it, but many families try making them at home or buy them in marts, department stores, and rice cake shops. “Pretty” Song Pyun are made in the shape of half moon.
Watch how to make “instant” Song Pyun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU7bXH2-Gqg
2. Jeon, Korean pancake, eaten during special occasions
Jeon can come with different ingredients. As can be seen above, from left side, zucchini, meat, shrimps, mushrooms, and fish, Jeon can vary depending on the ingredients used.
But most well-known Jeon is made out of Kimchi and spring onion. Koreans dip Jeon inside a sauce made out of vinegar and soy sauce (portion 3:1).
Watch how to make different types of Jeon: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_sort=video_view_count&search_query=how+to+make+korean+jeon
3. Korean Pear
Korean pear looks very different from pears grown in other countries and regions. It is shaped round and like happy Buddha's belly. It is ripe to eat during Chuseok season and very sweet with much juice. Now it is called “golden pear” because its price becomes 0.5 times more expensive during Chuseok holidays.
Hope you had fun reading this article and had a good idea of what Chuseok is, what its meaning is for Koreans, and what we do during this holiday. It starts from Sep. 26th ~ 28th this year.