Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok! Pray, Play, And Eat!

Andria Dunaz | October 21, 2016 | Traditions | 0 comment

ssireum-and-ganggangsulae

Korean waves spread around the world and get people attention so high, especially because Korean-Pop or usually called as K-Pop. It comes when some of boy and girl groups performing very great song that can touch people heart. Can you imagine how this modern tradition can make many people look and pay attention towards Korean cultures and traditions? When it spreads, maybe people are just interested with their idol, actress, dramas, songs, movies, or its modern songs. However, it also makes people want to know more about Korea, especially South Korea which has beautiful cultures and traditions. There are still many traditional culture and traditions in South-Korea which are celebrating by the society. Actually, they have three major traditional holidays that always celebrate with great festive. One of them is Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving Day!!!

Chuseok is one of Korea's three major holidays along with Seollal or Lunar New Year's Day and Dano, the 5th day of the 5th Lunar month. Chuseok is also known as Hangawi. Han means "Big" and gawi means "the ideas of the 8th Lunar month or an autumn". Thus, Chuseok or Hangawi means the great middle of autumn. They have three-days holiday and a major harvest festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of Lunar calendar on the full moon. Like many other harvest festival in the world, it is held around the autumn equinox.

What will Korean do in Chuseok?

There are so many activities you can do in this holiday. However, there are three major activity usually Korean people do in South Korea: praying for their ancestors, eating with family, and playing or relaxing.

In the morning of Chuseok, Korean and its family members gather at their homes to held a memorial services in honor of their ancestor. Korean do not belief if someone died, he or she is really died. For them, they are only physically die. They belief that the spirits still alive in their home as well and protect the descendants. It is why they prepare special food to honor their ancestors. Arranging the food of Charye has different order than common event. You cannot just put it on the table as you want without knowing the tradition how should it is arranged: on the north are rice and soup; fruit and vegetables are placed at the south; while on the west and middle are meat dishes; and on the east are rice cake and some drinks such as makgeoli or soju. These details may vary from each region.

Formal Charye also held during Seollal (Lunar New Year's Day) as well. The differences between this two services is that during the major representative food is tteokguk and a rice cake soup, while during Chuseok the major representative food are freshly harvested rice, alcohol and songpyeon. After the service, family members can sit down and enjoy delicious food together. Seongmyo and Beolcho are also done around Chuseok week. Seongmyo is a visiting to ancestral grave sites and Beolcho is the activity to remove weeds around the grave to clean their ancestor's site.

There is no festive without special food and drink! Songpyeon, hangwa, jeon, and traditional liquor are food and drinks usually serve in Chuseok. Songpyeon is a Korean Traditional rice cake which contains stuffing made with ingredients such as sesame seeds, black beans, mung beans, cinnamon, pine nut, walnut, chestnut, jujube, and honey. Songpyeon is also significant because of the meaning contained in its shape. Songpyeon's rice skin itself resembles the shape of a full moon, but once it wraps the stuffing, its shape resembles the half-moon.

Since the Three Kingdoms era in Korean history, a Korean legend stated that these two shapes ruled the destinies of the two greatest rival kingdoms, Baekje and Silla. During the era of King Uija of Baekje, an encrypted phrase, "Baekje is full-moon and Silla is half-moon" was found on a turtle's back and it predicted the fall of the Baekje. The prophecy came true when Silla defeated Baekje in their war. Since that time, Koreans started to refer to a half-moon shape as the indicator of the bright future or victory. Therefore, during Chuseok, families gather together and eat half-moon-shaped Songpyeon under the full moon in wishing themselves have a brighter future.

Another popular Korean traditional food that people eat during Chuseok is Hangwa. It is an artistic food decorated with natural colors and textured with patterns. Hangwa is made with rice flour, honey, fruits, and root. One food that cannot be left off the table during this holidays and parties is Jeon. These Korean pancakes are made by slicing fish, meat and vegetables and then lightly frying them in batter of flour and eggs.

  • Playing and Relaxing

Visiting South Korea during Chuseok is a great idea, because there are also some varieties of folk games to celebrate the coming of autumn and rich harvest. Village folk dress themselves to look like a cow or turtle, and go from house to house along with a Nongak band playing music. Other common folk games plated on Chuseok are archery and ssireum.

Ssireum (Korean Wrestling) is the most popular Korean sport played during Chuseok holiday. It is assumed to have 5000 years of history. Two men wrestle with each other while holding tight to their oponent's satba, red and blue band. A player loses when his upper body touches the ground. The ultimate winner becomes Cheonha Jangsa, Baekdu Jangsa, or Halla Jangsa; these all mean "the most powerful". Due to its popularity among both the young and the old, ssireum contests are being held more frequently, not limited on the important holidays.

Ganggangsullae (Korean Circle Dance) is a traditional folk dance performed under the full moon in the night of Chuseok. Women wear Korean traditional dress, hanbok, make a big circle by holding hands of each other, and sing a song while they are going around a circle. Its name, Ganggangsullae came from the refrain repeated after each verse, so there is no actual meaning to it. One of the most story says that the dance dates back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) when the Korean army used to dress the young women of the village in military uniforms and had them circle the mountains to give off the appearance that the Korean military was greater in number than it actually was from the enemy side. The Korean army enjoyed many victories thanks to this scare tactic.

In this traditional holiday, people in Korea will wear Hanbok. It is a traditional dress from Korea. It looks wonderful, doesn't it?

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