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A detailed explanation of 'Chuseok'

September 8, 2014 @ 10:39 am
by GhostWriter
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Chuseok (추석)

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 on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar, landing somewhere between September to early October on the solar 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 2014, the day of Chuseok falls on September 8th, and in 2015, the holiday will be celebrated on September 27th. 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.

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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, tug of war, and archery.



If you've been keeping up with the Chuseok videos 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. The elders will often nag to shape them as pretty as possible, as there's a saying that the prettier you shape your songpyeon, the prettier your future daughter will be.





We hope this helped. Have a happy Chuseok from everyone at allkpop!

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snow_kpopdreamer
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 11:02 am

In Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, we call them as Mid-Autumn Festival (or known as Mooncake Festival). But, the foods are totally different, we eat mooncakes. 

And, we didn't do tomb sweeping on this day. We doing it at Qing Ming festival, which is 4th April.

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young_in
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 1:35 am

Wanna try Chuseok food ... ^^
Happy Chuseok day
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blackangel21
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 12:08 am

I. In Korea teaching English. I asked my students what they were most and least excited about for Chuseok. Everyone was thrilled about the dinner, seeing family, som student really like wearing hanboks. But surprisingly most of my students were not fans of songpyeong. They don't like eating it's. I tried it out yesterday...yeah it's pretty meh so I understood, but yeah they have to each it every year so I understand there resentment lol. 

exopcytramtran
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 12:49 am
are you a teacher in korea ?
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blackangel21
· Posted September 19, 2014 @ 2:10 pm
@exopcytramtran sorry didn't see this till now, yes I am
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navi_x_loki
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 11:56 pm

Awww
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mL8
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 8:54 pm

It sounds like a combination of the Chinese holiday Qing Ming and the Moon Festival. 

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Winston
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

Acutally for some countries like Taiwan, i read articles that some ppl modernize the act of "Tomb sweeping"

Since a lot of ppl are stationed overseas or work overseas, not all can afford the time or air ticket to fly back home to visit their ancestral graves to clear the weeds and such.

Some ppl whose deceased loved ones is in ash urns instead of graves, they dont need to clear the weeds.

Some guy came up with this idea of putting the "ancestral tablets" (the long vertical thing in which the decased name is written on) online, and ppl can then "visit their love ones" by clicking on it and even offer an incense (electronic of cos), and it will show it "burning" as if you have offered one.

Though i think the idea is really ridiculous and it takes away the act of filial peity of actually visiting the tomb and making the offering in person, it shows how busy the lifestyle of modern city folks is like and that who knows traditionals like these may one day be "digitalised online"

some ppl already pay contractors money to do the tomb weeding for them instead as they are too busy to visit their ancestral graves so far away to do so.


Everything_KPOP
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 11:58 pm
And thus, due to the hectic chaos and super busy schedules of our modern lifestyles, we are losing our sense of culture and heritage bit by bit every year. It`s sad but I think in the future, acts such as "Tomb Sweeping" may only be done by a few minority or even disappear altogether.
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Sweet_Milk_Tea
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

it's also Mid-Autumn Festival in other Asian countries, too ^^

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ayechriz
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

this is a lovely article! interesting and informative at that too~  Happy Chuseok everyone! 

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ctg_col
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

QUESTION:

What do they do with the food they set as an offering to their ancestors after it is over? Do they eat it? Do they give it away? 

suhhyung
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 6:56 pm
We eat them.
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lianne_veen
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 7:02 pm
If it's the same as in China, which I assume it is since most of these beliefs and traditions are about the same in East-Asia, it is eaten after a while. The ancestors are ghosts (spirits), and will basically have consumed the spirit of the food. The physical food means nothing to them, so the ones in the physical world get to eat the physical part :)
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ctg_col
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 7:04 pm
@lianne-veen Thank you :)
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kpoplova19
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 9:11 pm
When i used to celebrate chuseok with my family after all the candles were blown out with my grandma's finger (yes they don't blow them out they usually use their two fingers) and there would be left over food, my mom would prepare it and we would eat that. Some stuff like the fruits and stuff when we would clean up the tables thats when we would be allowed to eat from the table, people don't necessarily dig in and grab what is on the 'set up table'
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kpoplova19
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 9:12 pm
the food on the table is their to pay respect and bring food to your family line that have passed away, so thats another reason why you would touch that food AFTER you have eaten the 'left overs' from the kitchen
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ctg_col
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 8:19 am
@kpoplova19 Thank you for taking the time to explain all of that :) I just have nothing like that in my country to compare it to ;)
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a_banana
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 5:31 pm
Is this anything like Mid- Autumn Festival?
ayechriz
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 6:55 pm
was wondering the same thing :O
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Everything_KPOP
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 12:02 am
You mean the Chinese counterpart? Well, it's almost but not really. Chinese make and eat mooncakes while Koreans make songpyeons more commonly. Chinese festival focuses on lighting lanterns while Korean is more of a big family gathering and generally eating and playing traditional games. Both festivals follows the Lunar calendar.
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eenie0203
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 5:20 pm

Wow awesome and I am doing a project for world travel and tourism class and I'm choosing Korea XD its really helpful 

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federick
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

Thank you AKP for wrting this very helpful and informative article :D Please continue to do this instead of putting up unworthy or subjective articles :D

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BCSN24
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

I'm not a fan of certain aspects of their culture, but I find this interesting. Similar to their traditional wedding ceremony.

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miss_bunny
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

I celebrate Chuseok. I'm Korean American and it still is really fun to me. My grandmother lives in America too but a bit far from me so I had drive with my family all the way to my hometown. We couldn't go to Korea because I can't stay home alone! Plus, I have school! 

suhhyung
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 6:58 pm
Me too! We actually have a caretaker guarding my grandfather's grave in Korea...usually though, my relatives only gathered to play go-stop and drink soju lmao.
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miss_bunny
· Posted September 10, 2014 @ 7:38 pm
@suhhyung at least you're celebrating and having fun ^.^
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Lee_SungKi
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

Can someone tell me if it is bad to someone travel to korea between september or october cuz of the holiday???

apple_blossom
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 9:57 pm
Well basically yes. Around Chuseok, traffic jam everywhere. Some store/place maybe close. And last but not least, the price of renting place and ticket are higher. It's like you travel to Japan during Golden Week. Or any Western countries during Christmas-New Year
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cococcchanel
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

For how long can the women dance is a ring? If it's under moonlight, can it go on as long as there's visible moonlight? owo

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whateverhappend
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

My favorite thing about this holiday is the idol championship.  I have been waiting for it since January. 

ninja21
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 3:20 pm
yeah me too!! But I didn't hear anything about this year. Will it happen???
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BCSN24
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 4:59 pm
I don't think they are doing it this year, because most of the idols that will bring good ratings, are performing overseas now.
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Everything_KPOP
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 12:07 am
@BCSN24 even if there's no Idol Championships this year, there's still usually a load of "special" broadcasts around this time that will see many idols participate in like special stage performances (cross-dressing male idols usually, lol), and/or a a variety show with idols around the theme of Joseon's Prince/Princess/Royal Family.
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BCSN24
· Posted September 9, 2014 @ 6:23 pm
@Everything-KPOP There was an article that there will not be many idols on Chuseok specials this year.
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soon
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 1:45 pm

Very nice explanation, and the pictures are super cute!

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ere_lia
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

Happy Chuseok Korea! I hope I will celebrate this with my oppa one day

ninja21
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 3:20 pm
lol *me too* ><
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mayakorea
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 12:57 pm
Is it just me or did I saw the same article last year here ??
ninja21
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 3:21 pm
idk if it's the exact same but they release a chuseok article every year
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jungielovee
· Posted September 8, 2014 @ 8:53 pm
They release an article about Chuseok every year lol
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