What is Chuseok?
Our American friends celebrate their Thanksgiving Day big time. Many history books would say that its origins could be traced way back to a celebration in 1621 held in what is Massachusetts today. People believe that the Pilgrims expressed their gratitude to God for their safe arrival to the New World, now the America that we know.
In South Korea, many believe that Chuseok originated from shamanistic celebrations of the harvest moon in the olden days. Nowadays, it is just a celebration with family and friends because of the abundant harvest. Chuseok occurs on the full moon of the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar (around late September to early October). The other name for Chuseok is Hangawi (more native in origin).
Chuseok 2021 falls from September 20 to 22. As with any huge national traditions, those who live in the city would visit their folks who are based in the provinces or other towns to spend Chuseok with them. They play folk games to add to the fun activities of the tradition. Some people choose to go on a holiday instead of commuting to their hometowns to avoid the immense traffic during the season.
Turkeys and pumpkin pie are the stars of the American table during Thanksgiving. But for the Asian Chuseok, the spotlight is on songpyeon. It is a rice cake that is shaped like a crescent moon and contains red beans, chestnuts, jujubes, powdered sesame, or just brown sugar. Other staples on the Chuseok table are sweet goodies such as rice puffs, honey cookies, pancakes, sorghum pancakes, rice balls, and more. You can learn a lot about those here. Japchae (potato noodles), jeon (savory pancake), dried fish, and galbijjim (braised beef ribs) are some of the main dishes on the menu. Know more about those through this link.
Did you know that there is also a certain table setting to properly arrange all the food items of Chuseok? The first row would consist of utensils, cups, and rice cake soup (떡국). The second row, from west to east, the placement would be guksu 국수 (noodles), yukjeon 육전 (meat pancakes), sojeon 소전 (beef pancakes), eojeok 어적 (fish), and siluddeok 시루떡 (rice cakes). The next row is where the meat soup, beef soup, and fish soup are placed. On the fourth row, you will find the po 포 (jerky), namul 나물 (seasoned vegetables), ganjang 간장 (soy sauce), nabak kimchi 나박김치 (kimchi), and sikhye 식혜 (sweet drink). Lastly, on the fifth row is where you will position the fruits and desserts.
For everything you need to know about this major Korean festivity, visit this site.
Have you celebrated authentic Chuseok in South Korea? Share your experience below.