Chuseok, originally known as ‘hangawi’ is one of the most important holidays in Korea. It’s a harvest festival where family members come together to share food, stories, and their heritage.
Han refers to something big in native Korean, while gawi refers to a day in the middle of fall. Combined, the word hangawi is interpreted as a big day in the middle of fall and this year, the holiday starts on September 23, 2018.
It lasts three days – including the day before and after Chuseok. Chuseok dates back nearly 2,000 years ago during the Silla dynasty. It serves to thank one’s ancestors by participating in traditional activities. If your business travels in late September take you to Korea, knowledge of the following Chuseok customs will prepare you to engage in intelligent conversation about this traditional harvest festival.
Charye: Ancestor Memorial Services On the day of Chuseok, family members gather at their homes to hold a memorial service called Chayre to thank their ancestors for the rich harvest in the following year.
The service is also held during Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) to wrap up the year by showing gratitude to their ancestors. During Chuseok, the major representative foods consist of freshly harvested rice, makgeolli (rice-based alcohol), and songpyeon (half-moon-shaped rice cakes).
During Seollal, families make tteokguk (rice cake soup) for their main dish. However, not all Korean families practice Charye as some have adapted to modernized customs in the era of globalization.
Families gather and celebrate the year’s harvest, paying tribute to their ancestors with a scrumptious spread which includes many traditional dishes, such as songpyeon, (송편, half-moon-shaped rice cake), galbijjim (갈비찜), japchae(잡채), various jeon(전) dishes, soup, three-color vegetable side dishes (samsaek namul, 삼색 나물), etc.
Songpyeon is the most iconic food item for Chuseok! These little rice cakes are made with natural food coloring and stuffed with sweetened sesame seed filling.