Chuseok (추석/秋夕) is the autumn harvest festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, on the full moon during harvest season. Chuseok means autumn evening (with the brightest moon) and is also known as Hangawi (한가위), Jungchu (중추/仲秋), Gabae (가배/嘉俳), etc.
This year, Chuseok falls on October 1, 2020.
My mother called me to say that she’s preparing food for jaesa (제사/祭祀/ancestral rites) for Chuseok.
She’s making rice cakes, different types of savory pancakes and namul, galbijjim (갈비찜/braised beef ribs), and a whole list of other traditional Chuseok food that I’m sure are delicious.
Someone told her that these days, you can just go out and buy them already prepared and to save herself the hard labor, but she says, how could she face our ancestors if she went out and bought all the offerings?
She says that costs especially time and effort are meaningless when it comes to honoring our family’s elders. We must be good to them whether they are with us or not. It’s one of the things that ensure we’re going on the right path.
Chuseok is one of our most important holidays. In traditional agrarian culture, Chuseok was a time for farmers to finally relax after a season of hard work, have a feast, and spend time with family.
We continue to show gratitude for the season’s harvest and wish that the fruit of our labor is bountiful.
Chuseok is also a time to honor, thank, and worship our ancestors. People visit ancestral grave sites with offerings of food and drink and remove weeds and clean the area as an act of filial piety.
What do we eat during Chuseok?
송편/松餠/pine needle rice cake
While many different types of food are eaten during Chuseok, songpyeon is to Chuseok what tteokguk (떡국) is to Lunar New Year (설날).
Songpyeon is a filled rice cake which represents the moon. During Chuseok, families often sit together and make songpyeon. We say our wishes as we prepare and eat songpyeon.
Songpyeon is steamed with pine needles to give it a unique taste and scent. Pine needles also have special medicinal properties that help kill bacteria and prevent spoiling. Pine trees are an important part of Korean culture.
It’s said that songpyeon is shaped like a half-moon instead of a full moon because the fate of a full moon is to wane while a half-moon fills up which then symbolizes prosperity for the days to come.
It was also said that if a young, unmarried lady made their rice cakes beautifully, it would attract a good spouse. If she was married, it would bring a beautiful daughter.
더도 말고 덜도 말고 늘 한가위만 같아라
Consists of the following:
- 더: more
- 도: even, also
- 덜: less
- 말다: (auxiliary verb for negating imperatives/irregular verb “ㄹ”) to not do something, to stop doing something
- 늘: always, all the time, the whole time
- 한가위: another word for Chuseok
- 만: only
- 같다: (regular verb) to be similar to, to be like; verb stem + ~아/어라: turns the verb into a low deference, imperative form
Anyways, wishing you and yours health, happiness, and a bountiful harvest in all of your endeavors this Chuseok.
즐거운 한가위 보내세요!