Tue, Aug 03, 2021, 00:27 KST (UTC+9)  Seoul  Korea

imagine your korea

Travel Highlights

Travel Highlights

Traditional Korean Holiday of Bountiful Harvest, Chuseok

  • Tag Event Food History
  • Date09/24/2020
  • Hit544532

Songpyeon, rice cake that represents Chuseok

Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving Day, is one of the biggest and most important holidays in Korea. Family members from near and far come together to share food and stories and to give thanks to their ancestors. In 2020, the day of Chuseok falls on October 1. As the day before and the day after are also part of the holiday, this year’s holiday period is from September 30 to October 4, including the weekend.

Many Koreans visit their hometowns to spend quality time with their family. The holiday also provides a good opportunity to experience traditional culture throughout Korea. Let’s take a closer look at the traditional Korean holiday of Chuseok.

The Meaning of Chuseok (Hangawi)

Charyesang (memorial service table) foods

Chuseok is one of Korea’s three major holidays, along with Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) and Dano (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month). Chuseok is also referred to as hangawi. Han means “big” and gawi means “the ides of the 8th lunar month or autumn.” According to the lunar calendar, the harvest moon, the largest full moon of the year, appears on the 15th day of the eighth month.

Traditions and Customs of Chuseok

Charye (ancestor memorial services) and Seongmyo (visit to family graves)

Customs of Chuseok

In the morning of the day of Chuseok, family members gather at their homes to hold memorial services called charye in honor of their ancestors. Formal charye services are held twice a year: during Seollal and Chuseok. During Chuseok’s charye, freshly harvested rice, alcohol and songpyeon (half-moon rice cakes) are prepared as an offering to the family’s ancestors. After the service, family members sit down together at the table to enjoy delicious food.

Another traditional custom of Chuseok is seongmyo, or visit to the ancestral graves. Seongmyo is an old tradition that is still carried out to show respect and appreciation for family ancestors. During seongmyo, family members remove weeds that have grown around the graves and pay respect to the deceased with a simple memorial service.

Traditional Folk Games

Traditional folk games (left credit: Korea Ssireum Association)

As Chuseok is a celebration of harvest and abundance, the holiday period is made joyful with various entertainment and folk games such as samulnori (traditional percussion quartet), talchum (mask dance), ganggangsullae (Korean circle dance), and ssireum (traditional Korean wrestling). Ganggangsullae is performed during Jeongwol Daeboreum (celebration of 15th day of the first lunar calendar) and Chuseok. In this dance, women dressed in hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) join hands in a large circle and sing together on the night of the first full moon and on Chuseok. There are several stories about its origin. One of the most well-known stories 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. Ssireum, another significant traditional entertainment, is a one-on-one wrestling match that requires strength and skills held on a circular sand pit.

Chuseok Foods

Songpyeon (top), jeon & traditional liquor (bottom)

A variety of foods are prepared during Chuseok to celebrate the bountiful harvest of the year, and one of the most significant foods that represent Chuseok is songpyeon. Songpyeon 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 seeds, beans, red beans, chestnuts, or other nutritious ingredients. During the steaming process, the rice cakes are layered with pine needles to add the delightful scent of pine. It is an old tradition for the entire family to make songpyeon together on the eve of Chuseok. An old Korean anecdote says that the person who makes beautifully shaped songpyeon will have a beautiful baby.

Other significant Chuseok foods include traditional liquor and jeon (Korean pancakes). Jeon are made by slicing fish, meat and vegetables and then lightly frying them in a batter of flour and eggs. They make a perfect pair with traditional Korean liquor.

More Info

* This column was last updated in September 2020, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.

PERFECT FOR YOU! 20 view
Yeongok Beach (연곡해변(연곡해수욕장))

Attractions>Destinations

Yeongok Beach (연곡해변(연곡해수욕장))

read more

Boryeong Mud Festival (보령머드축제)

Attractions>Events

Boryeong Mud Festival (보령머드축제)

read more

Manjanggul Lava Tube [National Geopark] (만장굴 (제주도 국가지질공원))

Attractions>Destinations

Manjanggul Lava Tube [National Geopark] (만장굴 (제주도 국가지질공원))

read more

Jusanji Pond [National Geopark] (주산지 (청송 국가지질공원))

Attractions>Destinations

Jusanji Pond [National Geopark] (주산지 (청송 국가지질공원))

read more

Samcheong Park (삼청공원)

Attractions>Destinations

Samcheong Park (삼청공원)

read more

Lotus Lantern Festival, Celebrating Traditional Buddhist Culture

Attractions>Travel Highlights

Lotus Lantern Festival, Celebrating Traditional Buddhist Culture

read more

Starfield Library (별마당도서관)

Attractions>Destinations

Starfield Library (별마당도서관)

read more

Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)

Attractions>Destinations

Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)

read more

Bucket List: Most Popular Korean Attractions of 2019

Attractions>Travel Highlights

Bucket List: Most Popular Korean Attractions of 2019

read more

Lotte World Tower & Mall (롯데월드타워&롯데월드몰)

Attractions>Destinations

Lotte World Tower & Mall (롯데월드타워&롯데월드몰)

read more

Yeongok Beach (연곡해변(연곡해수욕장))

Attractions>Destinations

Yeongok Beach (연곡해변(연곡해수욕장))

read more

Boryeong Mud Festival (보령머드축제)

Attractions>Events

Boryeong Mud Festival (보령머드축제)

read more

Manjanggul Lava Tube [National Geopark] (만장굴 (제주도 국가지질공원))

Attractions>Destinations

Manjanggul Lava Tube [National Geopark] (만장굴 (제주도 국가지질공원))

read more

Jusanji Pond [National Geopark] (주산지 (청송 국가지질공원))

Attractions>Destinations

Jusanji Pond [National Geopark] (주산지 (청송 국가지질공원))

read more

Samcheong Park (삼청공원)

Attractions>Destinations

Samcheong Park (삼청공원)

read more

Lotte World (롯데월드)

Attractions>Destinations

Lotte World (롯데월드)

read more

Bucket List: Most Popular Korean Attractions of 2019

Attractions>Travel Highlights

Bucket List: Most Popular Korean Attractions of 2019

read more

Mongchontoseong Fortress (서울 몽촌토성)

Attractions>Destinations

Mongchontoseong Fortress (서울 몽촌토성)

read more

Yeojwacheon Stream (여좌천-벚꽃명소)

Attractions>Destinations

Yeojwacheon Stream (여좌천-벚꽃명소)

read more

Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)

Attractions>Destinations

Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)

read more

Make an inquiry

1330 Travel Hotline Live Chat

Open KTO Live Chat(Download not required)

Open messenger app(Messenger app must be installed)
top