Chusok – Korean Thanksgiving Day: September 14
Chusok Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday in South Korea.
The Chusok Harvest festival is one of the most important festivals in whatever culture or religion it might be. It may be named as Thanksgiving in America, Pongal in India and in this case it’s known as Chusok in Korea. This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth Lunar month of every Lunar year. Let us see more about the Festival of Chusok, its Legacy, its rituals and what it means to the people of that culture.
History of Korean Chusok Festival
Korean Agriculture is based upon the monsoons and the rivers. The Superstitions and religion always cloud the rationality and the science of nature. In this case the farmers believed that if they would present their first batch of crop harvest or first batch of the farming they do, their year’s produce will be profitable and would not involve any nature’s calamities. The farmers do mostly plantation and step farming on the hills and the monsoon is a very important source of water. Lateness in arrival of these monsoons would mean sure destruction of crops to the Farmers. The rice paddies require a lot of water and their dependency on the whims of nature are very great. It is not just praying for the good produce of the upcoming year but also a thanking gesture for the last years produce. There are regions in the Korean territory where the people would not celebrate the festival if the harvest is not upto their expectations.
The Chusok festival is not just a thanksgiving festival as we had seen above. It is also the time of reunion of the families and loved ones. This property too has transcended boundaries and is a traditional part of such harvest festivals. The members of the family are invited to their ancestral homes and they celebrate the festival together. They also celebrate their ancestors and remember and thank them because the Koreans attribute their prosperity to their ancestors.
The origin of the festival can be traced on to the ancient shamanistic celebrations of the moon. The ancients may have developed this festival as a worship ritual which has now evolved into its present thanksgiving form. The term Chusok means mid-autumn day which is also the best period for the harvest to begin.
Chusok – Traditions, Customs and Activities
The most important activities are to give thanks to Mother Nature and the ancestors for providing a bountiful Harvest and a good prosperous year. The family members then gather to prepare the feast and offer it to the ancestors and Mother Nature in thanks. This is known as the ‘charye’.
During this ritual there are certain food items that will always be found. They are kimchi, meat, fish, walnuts, persimmons, dates, pears, apples. And also there is a main dish known as the songpyon which is the crescent shaped rice dish cooked with low heat steamed on top of pines. It actually a very delicious treat and these are offered to the Gods and the Ancestors.
Other rituals include the visiting of the tombs of the Elders and the ancestors. While visiting the foods that were prepared as a part of the charye would be offered to the ancestors. The tombs will be cleaned; the plants and other coverings over the tombs would be removed and the tombs will look almost as new. The people would return after paying their respects to their ancestors.
A variety of folk games are played during the festival. Some of the games played are archery, tug of war and Gama fighting. The villagers would dress up as cows or turtles and go home to home singing about the festival or play bands of music. They would also be wearing the traditional outfit known as the hanbok.
The day would end with the groups of people dancing in circles under the moon light. This is known as the kanggangsuwollae which can be compared to square dancing. It consists of both singing and dancing by holding to various tunes. These songs would all be about the love happiness and the integrity that the people of Korea share among themselves. The South western coastal regions and southern regions all too have sports like cock fighting, Bull fighting and the fun does not stop there.
Chusok and Thanksgiving festival in America
The Harvest Festival of Korea or the Chusok as it is known is in many ways similar to that of the Thanksgiving festival in America. It is a day when people thank nature for being good to them and providing them with what they need and it is also a day to remember and honor their ancestors.
Chusok is also called :
- Thanksgiving Day
- Harvest Festival
- Harvest Moon Day
- Korean Thanksgiving Day
- Full Moon Festival