I would like to share a little bit of stories remaining about autumn in South Korea that I intentionally left out from that series of articles.

Why? Because the theme is more about the culture of South Korea. Therefore, I intentionally write it on a separate article so I could write about it more freely. Anyway, there is nothing wrong to talk about traditional culture for once in a while right? So we don’t get bored for just travelling only.

Chuseok. Ever heard of that term? I don’t really know if the term of Chuseok has ever been mentioned on Korean dramas or not. For all of you who don’t know yet, Chuseok is the Korean harvesting festival.

The concept is pretty much similar with the celebration of Thanksgiving which is popular in America and other western countries. But of course, there are differences between Chuseok and Thanksgiving because Chuseok is strong with the traditional values of Korea. Wish to know how is the celebreation of Chuseok like? Kindly check out my article below:

 

Brief History

It is not clear when was the Chuseok celebrated for the first time. It is said that the tradition of  Chuseok begun since the tradition of gabae started at the era of third king from the Silla Empire (57 BC – 935). Gabae is a weaving contest involving 2 teams, and the winning team will be treated in a feast by the losing team. But there are stories that said that Chuseok begun from the voodoo tradition during the harvesting season.

Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
Illustration of Chuseok [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
 

Even though the history itself is not clear, Chuseok (which is also popular as Hangawi or the great middle of autumn) is now one of the 3 big festivals in South Korea (2 other festivals are Seollal or Lunar New Year’s Day and Dano or the 5th date of 5th mont in lunar year). So, for you people who love all the things about Korea, there is nothing wrong to get to know more detailedly regarding the tradition of Chuseok.

 

When is Chuseok celebrated?

Chuseok is celebrated on the 15th of August according to lunar year calendar. Even so, the total holiday during Chuseok celebration is 3 days. On 2014, the celebration of Chuseok happened on September 8th-10th, and on 2015 it was on September 27th-29th.

 

How is the Chuseok like?

Not much different with Thanksgiving, the point of Chuseok celebration is to be grateful towards the successful of harvesting this year, and to share that happiness with the entire family members and close friends.

So don’t get surprised if when the celebration date of Chuseok is coming near, the public transportation in Korea will run out and the traffic jam will rise as there are many people coming to their hometown so they can stay together with their big family.

The activities during Chuseok celebration is more or less like this: in the morning, the family members will gather to do some prayers to pay respect to their ancestors (usually it is up to 4 generations above) which is called as Charye ritual.

After the ritual is finished, the whole family will chill out together while enjoying various Chuseok special dishes such as Songpyeon and Korean sake, and then they will switch presents with each other family members (or giving envelope of money to the elderlies). The details of Chuseok special culinary can be seen as below.

offering table for ancestors
Offering table for ancestors [photo by: Namwon030/wikimedia]
offering table for ancestors
Offering table for ancestors [photo by: Nesnad/wikimedia]
offering table for ancestors
Offering table for ancestors [photo by: Joseph Steinberg (Baltimoron in Korea)/wikimedia]
offering table for ancestors
Offering table for ancestors [photo by: Joseph Steinberg (Baltimoron in Korea)/wikimedia]
After done practicing the charye, usually the family will then do the beolcho and seongmyo together. In our language, those two activities are known as visiting the grave. Beolcho is the activity to clean out the wild grass from the grave, while seongmyo is the activity to visit the ancestor’s graves. These activities to clean out and visit graves are usually started since one month prior the Chuseok celebration date, but there are many people who will revisit on the D-day.

After done with visiting the graves, there are many people who will continue their activity by visiting various places that hold special Chuseok events. There are a few special entertainment shows to be held during the moment of Chuseok celebration, such as Ssireum (Korean wrestling), and Ganggangsullae (Korean rounding dance).

A few places that are interesting to visit on Chuseok celebration are Gyengbokgung PalaceChangdeokgung Palace and HuwonChanggyeonggung Palace, and Deoksugung Palace. Other interesting places that have special programs on Chuseok are Korean Folk Village and Namsangol Hanok VillageCheonggyecheon Plaza, and Children’s Grand Park.

The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
The merry of Chuseok celebration [photo by: Korea.net/wikimedia]
 

After finishing all those activities above, they usually will end the day by watching movies together with all the family member, going to the bar for drinks, or just walking around to enjoy the night atmosphere.

 

Chuseok Special Culinary

Talking about traditional festival without mentioning its culinary side is like talking dangdut (a music genre originally from Indonesia) without dancing. It is not fun and incomplete. I have already given out some notes about the special culinary during the Chuseok celebration. Here is the full description:

  • Songpyeon, is a kind of Korean mochi or dango (rice cake) which is smaller than a golf ball and has the shape of half-moon. Songpyeon is usually stuffed with various fillings such as sesame seed, red bean, peanuts, etc. The celebration of Seollal or Lunar New Year’s Day is also been merried with rice cakes. The difference is that this rice cake is served with a soup and is called as Tteokguk.
Songpyeon [photo by: Republic of Korea/wikimedia]
Songpyeon [photo by: Republic of Korea/wikimedia]
Songpyeon [photo by: by Speculando/wikimedia]
Songpyeon [photo by: by Speculando/wikimedia]
Songpyeon [photo by: Republic of Korea/wikimedia]
Songpyeon [photo by: Republic of Korea/wikimedia]
Songpyeon [photo by: Travel Oriented/flickr]
Songpyeon [photo by: Travel Oriented/flickr]
  • Korean Sake. This beverage is usually consumed by the whole family member during the moment when they gather around altogether.
  • Other culinary usually served on Chuseok are: fresh fruits, pancakes, japchae (sweet potato noodles), bulgogi (Korean barbeque), and newly-harvested rice. 

 

Tips about Chuseok

If you have the plan to travel on around or exactly the period of Chuseok, there are some tips you need to pay attention at.

  • Always do a double or triple check the operational hour of tourism object you plan to visit on Chuseok celebration. Some tourism objects choose to close it down, while the others remain open and offering special Chuseok programs.
  • Having Korean friends to visit on Chuseok? There is nothing wrong to preapre some foods to give out, just to show that you appreciate local culture.
  • You need to be aware that transportation ticket in South Korea will be difficult to get around before and after Chuseok period. The traffic could even be much more crowded than usual. The solution is to travel right on the Chuseok celebration. On the D-day, the traffic would be less crowded as people will tend to stay with their family.

***

* All pictures were taken through creative commons. There are no editting from the original pictures. Name credits are based on the username on flickr/wikimedia.

 

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