Monday, September 23, 2013

Koreans Celebrate Thanksgiving Their Way with Chuseok

One of America's favorite past times, Thanksgiving, is a time of gathering with family, sharing stories and laughter over mashed potatoes and turkey. This time of year is associated with many traditions that reflect American culture- but did you know that Korea has a Thanksgiving as well?

Like in America, Korean Thanksgiving, known as Chuseok, is also full of deep tradition and culture. Unlike American Thanksgiving which is one day, Chuseok stretches across three. The preparation begins the day before Chuseok and extends till the day after. 

One of the most important traditions associated with Chuseok is Beolcho, the clearing of weeds around the grave of ancestors and Seongmyo, visiting the graves of the ancestors. It is considered a duty and expression of respect and devotion to the family. Another tradition
that adds spark and excitement to the holiday is Ssireum, Korean wrestling. During Chuseok the strongest people in each village are selected to compete in a wrestling match. The last one left standing is considered the village's strongest man and rewarded cotton, rice, or a calf as his prize.

 The Korean circle dance, or Ganggangsullae, is another critical aspect of the Chuseok celebration. During this ceremony women dress in traditional Korean clothing, Hanbok, and dance in a circle singing and holding hands. This tradition is very significant in Korean history, dating all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Clothing worn and food consumed is also very specific during the Chuseok holiday. Chuseokbim is the custom in which the head of each household would buy brand new clothes for everyone in the house, even the servants.

Like  turkey's importance in America, Korea also has a food that is representative during Chuseok. Songpyeon, the food of Korean Thanksgiving, is a ball of rice or rice powder filled with sesame seeds, beans, rice beans, and chestnuts. While they steam, pine needles are added to the top to create a beautiful and mouthwatering fragrance. It is tradition that whoever makes the best songpyeon will meet an attractive spouse, if single, or give birth to a beautiful daughter, if married or pregnant. 

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