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A detailed explanation of 'Chuseok'

September 10, 2011 @ 5:01 pm
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It's that time of the year again where the front page of allkpop gets loaded up with pretty pictures of celebrities in colorful hanboks, in addition to a vast coverage of exciting Chuseok variety specials. For new K-Pop fans unfamiliar with Korean culture, it can seem like all of the colors just came out of the blue, but Chuseok is actually one of the four major holidays celebrated in Korea. So what are your idols heading home to? Check it out below! -- Chuseok is sometimes referred to as the 'Korean Thanksgiving', 'Hangawi', 'Jungchujul', or 'Gabe' and is celebrated on the brightest full moon of the year, which occurs in mid-August on the lunar calendar. Unlike Western society, Koreans still use the lunar calendar for important dates, so a lot of their holidays are centered around the moon and its cycle. For 2011, the day of Chuseok falls on September 12th and in 2012, the holiday will be celebrated on September 30th. Chuseok is essentially a celebration of a good harvest, as it's around this time that grains and fruits will be at their ripest and freshest for harvesting.  To celebrate a year of successful farming, families will all pack up and head home to their ancestral hometowns and 'bon-ga' (directly translated to 'main house', but it's usually the home of the oldest or head of the household, e.g., grandparents, parents), where they'll dress up in traditional clothing, cook delicious food, and pay their respects to their ancestors. As you've probably noticed by now, respect for the elderly is a highly important trait for Koreans.  Chuseok isn't simply just a feast celebration, as there are three major duties that must be completed: 1. 'bulcho':  Weeds and such that have grown around the graves of family members all summer long must be picked and discarded. This is an especially important task for families because Korea (and Asian society in general) places a lot of emphasis on saving face before the public. When one commits a mistake, the first thought isn't, "Oh no, I am embarrassed," it's usually, "What would others think of this mistake?" Graves with weeds still growing around them after the Chuseok holiday will make others assume that they have undutiful children, and is considered an embarrassment for the family. 2. 'sungmyo': Respect must be paid to the grave, often in the form of bowing before it and offering alcohol, fruits, meat, and shikhye. 3. 'charye': An elaborate table setting of food offered to the ancestors at home.  There are several meticulous steps to setting this up and doing it properly, like lighting candles before the alcohol is poured in exactly three different cups and bowing twice after it.  Each dish also has a specific area of the table it needs to go on. -- Once the tasks are completed, it's time to play.  These games are outdated and families will normally gather to just chat and drink after dinner or play go-stop, but they're still often put on display at public events. 1. 'kangkangsullae': A game specifically for women, where several dozens will gather under the moon and dance in a circle, linking arms. 2. 'sonori'/'geobuknori': Two people will throw on a cape made of hanji (traditional Korean paper made from mulberry trees) and run around town under the guise of a cow or a turtle, going from house to house, asking for food. The food will often be shared with families who cannot afford Chuseok meals. Others include wrestling, cow fighting (a display of how well you fed and raised your cow all summer long), tug of war, and archery. If you've been keeping up with the Chuseok interviews here on allkpop, you've probably noticed that a lot of the stars just can't wait to make and eat songpyeon. Songpyeon is one of the representative food items of Chuseok, and it's made from the newly harvested rice.  It's essentially a small, crescent-shaped rice cake that contains either red beans, chestnuts, jujubes, powdered sesame, or just brown sugar. When you make the songpyeon, you make a wish as you scoop in the contents and carefully fold it up into a crescent shape so that your wish doesn't fall out. -- We hope this helped. Have a happy Chuseok from everyone at allkpop!

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