Chuseok: A Foreigner’s Guide to Korea’s Thanksgiving

Chuseok

Chuseok (추석) is a major traditional holiday in South Korea, also known as Korean Thanksgiving Day or Hangawi (한가위).

It typically falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which usually corresponds to late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.

Chuseok is one of the most significant and widely celebrated holidays in Korea, alongside Seollal (Korean New Year).

When you’re living in a foreign country, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than by participating in its traditions and celebrations.

In South Korea, one of the most significant and captivating cultural experiences is Chuseok.

 

Chuseok is a time for Koreans to give thanks for the year’s harvest and show gratitude to their ancestors.

The holiday has both cultural and religious significance.

Traditionally, families gather to pay respects to their ancestors by visiting ancestral graves and holding a memorial service called “Charye” (차례).

During Charye, families offer food, fruits, and other symbolic items to honor their deceased relatives.

 

As a foreigner, understanding and celebrating Chuseok can provide you with a deeper insight into Korean culture and foster connections with locals.

In this blog, we’ll explore Chuseok from a foreigner’s perspective and learn how to embrace this special holiday.

 




Chuseok Basics:

Chuseok, also known as Hangawi, typically falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which usually corresponds to late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.

This holiday has deep agricultural and ancestral roots and is an ideal opportunity to witness Korean traditions up close.

 

  1. The Significance

    Chuseok is a time for Koreans to express gratitude for the year’s bountiful harvest. It’s a period of reflection, unity, and appreciation. Families gather to honor their ancestors, a practice that demonstrates the strong ties Koreans have to their heritage.

  2. Charye (차례) – Paying Respects to Ancestors:

    During this holiday, Korean families engage in Charye, a ritual where they visit ancestral graves and hold a memorial service. Offerings of food, fruits, and symbolic items are made as a sign of reverence to their deceased relatives.

Photo of Charye ceremony
Charye ceremony

 

Experiencing Chuseok as a Foreigner:

Attire:

Embrace the occasion by donning a traditional Korean outfit called “hanbok.” Many locals wear hanbok during Chuseok, and joining them in traditional attire can be a fun and culturally enriching experience.

Hanbok's photos
Hanbok

 

Taste the Traditional Food:

Chuseok is all about delicious food, so don’t miss the opportunity to savor some iconic dishes. Try “songpyeon,” sweet rice cakes shaped like half-moons, and sample other Chuseok delicacies like freshly harvested fruits and vegetables.

 

Engage in Activities:

Join in the festivities by participating in traditional games such as archery or ssireum (Korean wrestling). These activities are not only enjoyable but also a great way to bond with locals.

 

Learn About Ancestral Practices:

If you have Korean friends, ask them about their family’s traditions. They might invite you to participate in their Charye ceremony(As mentioned earlier, this is a ritual where families pay respects to their ancestors through offerings of food and other items) or share stories about their ancestors.

 




Travel and Explore:

Chuseok is a long holiday, so it’s an excellent opportunity to explore Korea. You can visit popular tourist destinations, take part in local events, or simply enjoy the serene autumn landscapes.

 

This holiday is a beautiful celebration that allows foreigners to connect with Korean culture on a profound level.

By participating in Chuseok activities, tasting traditional dishes, and understanding the significance of ancestral rites, you can gain a deeper appreciation for Korea’s rich heritage and traditions.

Whether you’re a resident or just visiting, it offers a unique and heartwarming experience that you won’t soon forget.

 

However, please keep in mind that it may be difficult to buy meals because most restaurants in Korea are closed on Chuseok.

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