Culture Highlight: Chuseok, Korean "Thanksgiving"

Culture Highlight: Chuseok, Korean "Thanksgiving"

In the spirit of Thanksgiving in the US, it seems appropriate to talk about how other countries give thanks. Although it occurred in September this year, Chuseok is the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving that spans over 3 days and is an important holiday in Korea. Chuseok consists of making platefuls of food and coming together with family members to remember ancestors to show gratitude for the past and future. Every aspect has a significant meaning as Koreans reunite to eat, play, and remember.

Causing the biggest holiday traffic jam, Koreans leave the cities and return to their ancestors’ villages to be with family. The day is filled with rituals, incredible food, gifts, and plenty of games for the whole family. As the day starts with Charye, families gather to light candles and invite ancestors to come eat dishes like songpyeon. Made with finely ground rice, sesame seeds, chestnuts, and red beans, songpyeon is also arranged and steamed on pine needles to capture the taste and aroma of fall. Each item symbolizes something significant, and songpyeon represents the importance of family. Jeon, or savory pancakes, as well as fresh fruits, cooked beef, vegetables, and more are prepared and consumed for days in honor of Chuseok.

korean dish songpyeon

Unlike a typical American Thanksgiving that is filled with a lot of eating and resting, Chuseok is quite active. Families take part in games and dances to celebrate the harvest and give thanks. Ganggangsulae is a traditional dance done by all women and consists of joining hands in a circle formation under the full moon. They sing and dance for hours, picking up speed along the way. Jultagi, or tightrope walking, is another popular tradition as well as Ssierum. Similar to American football on Thanksgiving Day, Ssierum is a wrestling event that attracts countless viewers to witness the ultimate fight to win a prized bull.

This jampacked holiday wouldn’t be complete without a few gifts for loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Although every family celebrates in their own way, Chuseok remains a very significant celebration for all Koreans. The three days of eating, playing, and remembering has and will continue to be a special way to give thanks. With so many au pairs from around the world, it’s important to learn and appreciate other cultures. We’re thankful for our friends and families across the globe!