Celebrating Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving

When thinking of the fall season, many think of it as the beginning of the holiday season. In America, we celebrate Labor Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving; but Koreans celebrate their own Thanksgiving, Chuseok (추석, literally translated to “Autumn eve”). Chuseok is a major harvest festival and three-day holiday that is celebrated during the full moon of the 8th month of the lunar calendar—thus, it is celebrated on different dates every year. This year, the celebration will be September 30 through October 2, and we have all the information you need to know to help join in on the festivities.

KORE limited korea chuseok korean thanksgiving family
Chuseok, known in archaic Korean as Hangawi  (meaning “the great middle [of autumn]"), originates from Korea’s past as an agricultural society. On this day, when there was a full harvest moon in the sky, families gathered and gave thanks to their ancestors for the plentiful harvest. Nowadays, though the celebration of the festival has become more modernized, families still come together every year and spend time with one another.
KORE limited korea chuseok korean thanksgiving family
Food plays a big role in the celebration of Chuseok. One of the most well-known festival foods is songpyeon (송편), a type of rice cake made from finely ground rice and often filled with ingredients such as red beans, honeyed sesame seeds, or chestnuts. Another food commonly eaten during Chuseok is jeon (전), savory pancakes made by slicing fish, meat, and vegetables and then lightly frying them in a batter of flour and eggs. Jeon is often eaten alongside makgeolli (막걸리), traditional Korean rice wine. Other popular foods include toranguk (토란국), a soup made from taro, and hangwa (한과), traditional Korean confections that come in a variety of types.

Although Chuseok is referred to as Korean Thanksgiving, Korean people actually participate in gift-giving, unlike American Thanksgiving. In addition to presenting gifts to their relatives, Koreans will give gifts to friends and business acquaintances to show their appreciation. Some customary gifts include high-quality cuts of beef, fresh fruit, and gift sets that can range from affordable to jaw-dropping expensive.

Korean people have a long history of giving gifts during Chuseok. Another aspect of Korean culture with an interesting history is K-pop. Find out more about the genre in our blog: A History of K-pop

Korean people also play folk games with their families during Chuseok. Some of these games include dalkssaum (닭싸움, literally translated to “chicken fight”), where players try to knock each other over while holding onto one leg and hopping around; and jegichagi (제기차기), a popular children’s game similar to hacky sack that involves kicking a jegi (or shuttlecock) so that it doesn’t touch the ground. Other common games are yutnori (윷놀이), a traditional board game in Korea, and yeon nalligi (연날리기, or kite flying). Though these games have been around for many years, they remain timeless ways for families to engage in friendly competition during the festival.

Chuseok is one the biggest events in Korean culture, and like American Thanksgiving, marks a time for family and friends to gather and show appreciation for one another. With the holiday coming up soon, here are two ways to wish others a nice Chuseok!

  • Have a nice Chuseok with your family.
    가족들과 함께 즐거운 추석 보내세요.
    Gachokdeulgwa hamkke cheulkeoun chuseok bonaeseyo.
  • Have a full-hearted and generous Hangawi.
    마음까지 넉넉해지는 풍성한 한가위 보내세요.
    Maeumkkaji neokneokhaejineun pungseonghan hangawi bonaeseyo.

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