Have you ever heard of Chuseok (추석), Hangawi (한가위), or Korean Thanksgiving? To Koreans, it is one of the most important holidays to celebrate and one of the biggest migration holidays to take place in modern day Korea. As a holiday that is based on the lunar calendar, Hangawi roughly translates to Han meaning “big” and gawi meaning “the ides of the 8th lunar month/autumn” as it was believed that the harvest moon (the largest full moon of the year) appeared during the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar. Today, family members often travel to their hometown or head of their family’s estate from all over the country to share food, stories, and celebrate their ancestors.
Family gathers together to make songpyeon.
Historians believe Chuseok can be dated back to about two thousand years ago during the reign of Silla’s third king, Yuri, when his people celebrated a competitive holiday on the same lunar date as Chuseok. A month before celebration, 2 teams of women wove silk over the course of one month and presented their work on the 15th day of the 8th lunar calendar month. The team with the most cloth would be crowned winner and the losing team would prepare plentiful foods and drinks for the winners. One of the many foods that was prepared during festivities was the songpyeon (rice cake). Their rice cakes were shaped like a crescent moon as the kingdom of Silla was once depicted as such in the historical record, ‘Samguk Sagi.’
In the tale, a ghost entered Baekje’s palace (a major enemy of Silla) shouting “Baekje is ruined.” King Uija of Baekje ordered for the ground to be dug up where the ghost appeared and out emerged a tortoise with the inscription, “Baekje is like a round moon, and Silla is like a crescent moon,” implying Baekje’s predicted downfall and Silla’s rise of power. This omen became true as Silla dominated both the Baekje and Goguryeo Kingdoms and flourished with unification.
Songpyeon filled with sesame and honey.
Songpyeon comes in a variation of colors and fillings varying by different regions of Korea.
One of Chuseok’s signature dishes is songpyeon, a traditional Korean rice cake served with rice powder and stuffed with honey, sesame seeds, red beans, chestnuts, or other nutritious ingredients. Usually family members would prepare these rice cakes together in a crescent moon-like shape and steam them with pine to enhance the aroma, prevent the rice cakes from sticking to one another, and act as a natural preservative. It was believed that if a songpyeon tasted delicious and was presented beautifully like a half moon, the household would bear beautiful children and successful marriages.
In celebration of this year’s upcoming Chuseok, we’ve personified the beloved songpyeon to give you Suga-R and Beanie. As the name suggests, Suga-R has a sweet personality and an even bigger sweet tooth. His favorite treat to eat is anything dipped with honey. He eats so much honey that he often has a bit of honey drool hanging from his mouth at all times. Suga-R is a bit of a klutz so you may see him rolling around more than walking. One of his closest friends is Beanie who is quite the prankster and a performer at heart. He dreams of becoming a K-hiphop star, spreading his talent and his love of mung beans. In their spare time, they love walking the streets of Seoul and checking out the markets and discovering cafes for new desserts to try out. We hope you love Suga-R and Beanie as much as we do and celebrate this year's Chuseok songpyeon style in our tees or hoodies.