Chuseok is one of the largest and most widely celebrated holidays in South Korea. This holiday is a time of happiness and reconnecting as families gather, chat, and have great feasts.
|2019||12 Sep to 14 Sep||Thu to Sat||Chuseok|
|2020||30 Sep to 2 Oct||Wed to Fri||Chuseok|
The primary reason for Chuseok in South Korea is to honour ancestors and deceased relatives, but the holiday also serves the purpose of keeping the family together in a time when work and other obligations may separate people.
Traditionally, Chuseok also allowed South Koreans to celebrate the Autumn harvest after a season of hard work. Chuseok is held on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar, or the fall equinox.
Chuseok is a holiday that is largely centered around the culture and history of South Korea. Because of this, many South Korean families will honor traditions that allow them to reconnect to their family roots.
Visit Ancestral Homes
Many South Koreans are very meticulous when it comes to knowing where their heritage comes from. Those that know where there family originated may visit their ancestors’ village. This allows South Koreans to respect those that came before them while enjoying a holiday trip with family members.
On the day of Chuseok, it is necessary to honor ancestors for the opportunities that have come throughout the year. The Charye is one of the most important memorial rites to be performed. Performed in the morning, the Charye ceremony consists of placing various tribute foods in an arrangement on a table before saying a good prayer. In general, rice is placed on the northern end of the table, fruits and vegetables on the southern end, meat on the western end, and rice cakes and drinks on the eastern end. The Charye rite honors the past four generations and calls upon their spirits’ protection for the future.
Along with visiting ancestral homes and paying respect through rites, it is also a tradition to honor ancestors by visiting graves or urns. South Korean people usually say a few words to pay respects to their fallen relatives’ spirits. It is also common to leave a tribute such as food or wine.
While visiting graves during seongmyo, South Koreans will clean headstones and the area around the grave through a process known as beolcho. During beolcho, people may pull weeds, plant flowers, scrub dirt off of headstones, and rake fresh dirt to the surface of the grave plot. This is a process that is representative of the filial piety and respect for ancestors that is common in South Korean culture.
To relax and enjoy the company of family after a busy summer and spring, people in South Korea celebrate Chuseok through a great feast. This elaborate meal consists of local vegetables that are in season along with some favorites that have become a regular aspect of the Chuseok holiday.
Just as the Chinese purchase new clothes during the lunar New Year, it is a custom of South Korean to buy new outfits before Chuseok. Traditionally, South Koreans would purchase traditional garb to celebrate the holiday. While some people still do uphold the old traditions of Chuseokbim, many South Koreans opt to purchase Western style dresses and suits instead. This allows them to celebrate the mid-autumn holiday in nice clothes while also having practical clothing for the future.
A popular sport in many South Korean regions for a long time, Ssireum is a type of wrestling that has strong ties to the Chuseok holiday. In some areas of South Korea, large Ssireum competitions are held to determine the strongest man among the villages. The way the contest works is that two men enter the ring and wrestle until one of their upper bodies’ touches the ground. The person whose upper body touched the ground is eliminate and a new challenger enters the ring. This continues until their are no more challengers. The last person standing in the ring when all of the challengers have been eliminated is considered the winner and the strongest man. This winner receives a title declaring him as the strongest man and some kind of prize depending on the village and region. Sometimes this prize is a calf, large supply of rice, or other useful item.
Traditionally, Korean women would wear hanboks and gather in a large circle while linking hands. While in this circle, the women would participate in a circle dance called ganggangsullae. This dance is very rhythmic and typically performed while singing a song. It is common for the Ganggansullae to be performed during Chuseok for fun and to honor the cultural traditions that surround the holiday.
Since Chuseok is a holiday oriented around a great feast, there is also a large selection of unique South Korean food that is eaten. One of the most common holiday foods of Chuseok is songpyeon. Songpyeon is a sweet rice cake that is enjoyed as a snack or dessert. It is consisted of rice powder dough that has been stuffed with sesame seeds, red beans, chestnuts, and other fillings that vary from region to region. Songpyeon is steamed and covered with pine needles for a fresh scent. During Chuseok, South Koreans also enjoy rice liquor with their friends and family.
Places of Celebration
Many activities such as ancestral rites, live performances, songpyeon making, and martial arts performances can be enjoyed throughout Korea. Some of the most popular locations to celebrate Chuseok include:
- Korean Folk Village
- Changdeokgung Palace and Huwan
- Jongmyo Shrine
Chuseok is an autumn holiday centered around rich cultural traditions and family bonds.