"Chuseok”', the Autumnal Full Moon Harvest Festival like a Thanksgiving Day in the West, is celebrated by Koreans all around the world.
It is the most important family get-together to enrich family values and commemorate ancestors.
Sons, daughters or grandchildren gather at parents or grand parents’ place to celebrate the annual Korean festival of the full moon at harvest time, resulting in the whole nation’s move.
In fact more than two thirds of the entire population of Korea travel for the occasion to their hometown and villages.
Another important tradition on Chuseok is to visit and tend ancestors’ graves.
The long tradition is maintained and upheld even in foreign countries, of course, including Australia.
Families dressed in traditional costume 'Hanbok' commemorate their ancestors and prepare a banquet made of the year’s harvested crops. Korean compatriots usually ring their parents in the morning if they do not live together.
Even for from Korea, families believe that it is just as important to teach children Korean customs as it is to teach children the Korean language.
Thus the longstanding tradition of the family get-together on Chuseok has originated from the commemorative rites for ancestors on the completion of annual harvest in an agricultural society.
Like other holidays, Chuseok is full of hearty treats and foods such as “songpyeon” (traditional rice cakes stuffed with assorted fillings of sugar, ground sesame and bean powder) and “namul” (seasonal stir frying vegetables), that can be readily purchasable from Korean grocery shops around Australia.
Interestingly, Korean people are traditionally allowed to gorge on and share seasonal foods as it is known as the spirit of Chuseok.
However, Chuseok’s main dishes are meat-based like other festivities’, so it is recommended to use lean parts instead of fatty parts.
1. Charye (ancestor memorial services)
On Chuseok morning, family members gather at their home to hold memorial services (called Charye) in honor of their ancestors. Formal Charye services are held twice a year: during Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) and Chuseok. The difference between the two services is that during Seollal the major representative food is white Tteokguk (a rice cake soup), while Chuseok’s main food is freshly harvested rice. After the service, family members sit down together at the table to enjoy delicious food that symbolizes their blessings.
Songpyeon is the symbolic food of Chuseok. This rice cake is prepared with rice powder that is kneaded into a size that is a little smaller than a golf ball, and then filled with sesame seed, beans, red beans, chestnuts, or other nutritious ingredients. When steaming songpyeon, the rice cakes are layered with pine needles to add the delightful fragrance of pine. On the eve of Chuseok, the entire family used to gather together to make songpyeon under the bright moon. An old Korean anecdote says that the person who makes a beautiful piece of songpyeon will meet a good spouse or give birth to a beautiful baby.
3. Ganggangsullae (Korean circle dance)
In this dance, women dressed in Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) join hands in a circle and sing together. 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 make enemy troops think the Korean military was greater in number than it actually was. The Korean army enjoyed many victories thanks in part to this scare tactic.
4. Chuseokbim (Chuseok dress)
During Chuseok, everyone in the household buys and wears new clothes, usually hanbok (Korean traditional clothes). This custom is known as Chuseokbim, and is still practiced today. These days, however, most families purchase clothes from department stores or boutique shops instead of having hanbok made. Dressed in new clothes, families and relatives are ready to celebrate Chuseok.