Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks in Korea - Chuseok

Chuseok - a Korean "Thanksgiving"

In Korea there is a 3-day festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, usually between September and October.  This festival celebrating the harvest and family is called Chuseok (or sometimes Hangawi).  On the first day, the eve of Chuseok, the entire family will gather together and make the traditional rice cake
called Songpyeon.  These are not like the rice cakes we have in the U.S., they are make with rice flour and filled with a sesame filling and steamed.  It is a contest amongst the family to see who will make the most beautiful Songpyeon because whoever does will meet a good spouse or have a pretty baby (so it's told).  We were going to make some of these for a project this week but I have 25 people coming to dinner tomorrow so it got put on the back burner, BUT, if you'd like to make some here is a recipe.  Hope you make a pretty one.  On the morning of Chuseok, the tradition is to prepare a table with the Songpyeon and other items from that years harvest.  Then there is a memorial service, called a Charye, to honor the ancestors whose goodwill has made the harvest plentiful.  Once the service is over the feast can begin. 
 After the Charye and meal, the graves of the ancestors are visited and cleared of any weeds or debris.  This is known as Seongmyo and is done out of a sense of duty, respect, and to keep the family honor.  It is also customary to buy new clothes during Chuseok, either the traditional robes called hanbok, or the more modern clothes worn today.  The 3rd day of the holiday is for visitng with friends and family and doing other fun activities.  Korean wrestling is a popular sport and villages will have competitions to find the strongest man in the area.  Also popular is a dance called Ganggangsullae. Woman and children dress in traditional costume and dance in a circle under the harvest moon.  If you would like to see a dance please watch this video.  It is about 10 mins. long but sooooo interesting, it tells the story behind the dance and shows the steps and symbolism.  What a beautiful tradition. 

I'm taking a couple of days off to have my own tradition.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  May you enjoy a bounty of love (and food) and have much to be thankful for.