Chuseok (추석) is one of Korea’s most important holidays and this year it will be celebrated September 7 – 10.  It’s also known as Hangawi, which means the great middle of August/Autumn.  Similar to America’s Thanksgiving, most Koreans return to their hometowns to gather with family, overeat and give thanks for their ancestors and bountiful harvest.  Gifts are exchanged and traditional food and drink such as songpyeon (small rice cakes stuffed with a puree of sesame seeds, chestnuts and red beans) and rice wine are consumed.

Dating back about 2,000 years, legend has it that Chuseok began as a result of a weaving competition between two princesses in the Silla Dynasty.  The fierce competition lasted for a month, ending on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar during the full moon.  The loser had to prepare a bountiful feast for the victors.  It is also believed that Chuseok comes from the shamanistic practice of worshiping and giving thanks to their ancestors and the harvest moon.

Since the timing of Chuseok this year gives us a five day weekend (only two weeks into the new semester!) I am going to brave the holiday traffic and head south to Geoje Island with a friend who is also an English teacher in Eumseong.  I hear it’s beautiful and the weather is supposed to be nice.  Upon my return, I promise blog more frequently, as well as post in detail (with lots of photos) about my summer adventure. 🙂

Gift baskets take over grocery stores and markets this time of year.  Who wouldn't want a Spam gift set?

Gift baskets take over grocery stores and markets this time of year. Who wouldn’t want a Spam gift set?

Traditionally, families gather on the eve of Chuseok to make songpyeon, small rice cakes filled with a puree of sesame seeds, chestnuts and sweet red beans. They are usually steamed with a layer of pine needles.

Traditionally, families gather on the eve of Chuseok to make songpyeon, small rice cakes filled with a puree of sesame seeds, chestnuts and sweet red beans. They are usually steamed with a layer of pine needles.

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