추석 (Chuseok), Korean Thanksgiving

Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, is coming up in a week or so, which presented the perfect opportunity to share some ideas on how to celebrate with your family.

First let me share a little background. The Chuseok holiday falls according to the lunar calendar, usually sometime between mid-September and early October on the solar calendar. In 2008 its Sept. 14; here are the dates for the next four years: Oct. 3, 2009, Sept. 22, 2010, Sept. 12, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012. In Korea the day before Chuseok and the day after Chuseok are also national holidays, allowing everyone to travel to their ancestral homes.

Chuseok is a time to give thanks for the harvest and pay respects to ancestors. Lots of food is prepared, then the family dressed in new hanboks performs the ritual of charye at the family’s ancestoral graves. The one food that is most closely associated with Chuseok is songpyeon. This is a rice cake filled with sesame, red beans, and chesnuts. Here’s a recipe for songpyeon. For Chuseok the rice cakes are usually shaped like crescent moons. Other foods that are eaten include rice, soup, fish, meat, fruit (such as apples pears, oranges or persimmons) and greens (bean sprouts and spinach).

Traditionally games and various activites were also a part of the Chuseok celebration. Games included archery, seesawing for the girls, tug of war, and wrestling. You can find out more about traditional Chuseok celebrations here and here.

And here are some ways that your family can celebrate Chuseok in the United States.

• Since food is such an important part of Chuseok, plan a Korean feast for your family. Korean meals usually include the colors red, green, yellow, white and black. San jok (grilled beef and vegetable skewers) are wonderful, relatively easy, and often served on festive occasions in Korea. I use a recipe from the cookbook, Cooking the Korean Way by Okwha Chung, which I found in the children’s seciton of our local library. But here is a very similar one in case you don’t have access to a Korean cookbook. Another food to include is ho bak jon (zucchini pancakes). These are listed in Cooking the Korean Way as a “favorite food at the time of the Harvest Moon Festival, Chuseok.” Again they are easy to make and very tasty. Here‘s a recipe I found on the Web. Mandu (which we buy frozen at our Korean market), sticky rice, and kimchi could round out your meal. If you’re not up trying songpyeon, serve fruit for dessert (Korean pears or persimmons are yummy), make sesame cookies, or make American sugar cookies or crisp rice treats in the shape of a crescent moon.

• Since Chuseok is about honoring ancestors, you could set a photo of your family patriarch on the table and talk about what how that family member helped shape your family in some way. What has been passed down from that generation to your children? What have your ancestors given you that you’re most thankful for?

• Read a book about Chuseok. See if Sori’s Harvest Moon Festival by Lee, Uk-bae, or In the Moonlight Mist by Daniel Son Souci is available from your library.

• Play a game of yut nori. If you have a Korean market nearby, you’ll likely be able to find a yut set there. But if you don’t, or you’d like to make a craft of our it for your kids, here you’ll find instructions on how to make the pieces you’ll need and the instructions on how to play.

This blog post from 2006 shows some games that young kids Korea may play in school during the week of Chuseok. There are several cool ideas here that you could use for your family.

Chuseok is one of the major holidays in Korea and provides a great opportunity for your family to connect with your child’s birth culture. I would love to hear your ideas about ways to celebrate Chuseok so please share in the comments section.

And if you want to read more a little more, here’s a blog about how one Korean-American family celebrated the holiday in the U.S.

5 Responses to “추석 (Chuseok), Korean Thanksgiving”

  1. 1 sharon
    October 8, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I have tutored Korean children for three years. Their parents attend Michigan State University. I want to give a report to a graduate class I am in about Chuseok. They have told me that the women prepare for days, like we do here. Travel is long, slow and tiring. The men sit together and wait to be fed (like here). It takes 20 minutes to eat and the women clean up for hours. What else can you tell me that very young, sheltered kids might find interesting?

    • 2 Mom2One
      October 8, 2009 at 10:11 pm

      Check out the post I did last year about Chuseok (Sept. 5, 2008, was the date on the post). In it are some links to other sites that tell about the games that are played on the holiday. The games may sound similar to things American kids do (swing, seesaw, wrestle), but the kids would probably find the differences interesting. For example, they swinging very high in swings standing up and they seesaw standing up to and go very high in the air. The sites have photos that you might be able to share with your students. Also since Chuseok is about honoring ancestors, you might want to talk about the older generations in their families. We did this with our 3.5-year-old for Chuseok last week. Talked about his favorite memories with his grandparents and our favorite memories of our grandparents. One children’s book on Chuseok that you might want to use is called Sori’s Harvest Moon Festival. Hope those ideas give you a start.

  2. 3 Gina Kim
    November 3, 2009 at 12:13 am

    This website is very helpful and made my project get an A. Trust this site.

  3. September 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I just found this blog and I find it very educational. My adoptive Korean son and our family are going to celebrate Chuseok today.

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Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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