Archive for the 'Korean holiday how-tos' Category


Korea’s National Foundation Day

October 3rd is National Foundation Day in Korea. It’s the day the country commemorates the mythical founding of the country. The Korea Society’s lesson titled “Exploring Korea’s Creation Myth” says:

“According to the myth, Tan-gun founded Choson in 2333 BC. Interestingly, historians also use that date as the beginning of the nation. However, the first people to settle in the Korean peninsula were probably from the Ural Altaic region.”

One actitivity you could use to commemorate the day would be to use the lesson mentioned above. It includes a script so students can act out the foundation myth.

Or you could read the story the foundation myth with your kids. Here is a great site that tells the story of Tan-gun.

You may also want to talk about the actual founding of Korea. Children’s Press (a publishing arm of Scholastic) has released a new series of books called Enchantment of the World, Second Series. This series includes updated books (copyright 2008) on both South Korea and North Korea by Patricia K. Kummer. They are great resources that not only include the ancient history of the country but also recent history, culture, daily life, and more. We found both of them at our local library. Or you can purchase them from Scholastic’s Web site or from


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.


광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)

Today is Korea’s 60th birthday. It was on August 15, 1948, that the Republic of Korea (what we know as South Korea) was established. Three years earlier on August 15, 1945, the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces in World War II ended the 35-year colonization of Korea by the Japanese.

The years under Japanese rule had been hard ones for Koreans. They had been forced to take Japanese names, been forbidden to speak Korean, talk about Korean history, write in hangul, grown Rose of Sharon bushes (Korea’s national flower) and fly the Korean flag. The Japanese attempted to squelch Korean culture, but most families quietly kept the culture alive within their homes.

So, as you can imagine, liberation from the Japanese was cause for a huge celebration. Of course, liberation didn’t end up to be what the Koreans had hoped for. Instead of a united, independent country, Korea was divided in two at the 38th Parallel, forming North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and South Korea (the Republic of Korea). Sadly this division meant that some families were separated and have been unable to have regular, if any, contact with each other.

Still Koreans all over the world celebration Gwangbokjeol. Our local Korean community will celebrate tomorrow with a large gathering at one of our local parks. We’ll be there enjoying the wonderful food and culture events that are planned.

Here are some things you can do with your family today to commemorate Korean independence:

• Color a Korean flag (taegukki). A great coloring page can be found here.

• Make a Korean dish for dinner. Here are some great recipes. Bulgogi is especially yummy and easy to make. Denise’s Famous Bulgogi recipe is one lots of families use. If there’s not time to put it in the crockpot, you can cook it in a skillet or under the broiler.

• Learn to say some Korean words. This is a great site for learning some words and phrases.

And if you’d like to read more about Korea’s history, particularly during the Japanese occupation, here are few books that give you more insight. The first two are young adult chapter books, while the last two are adult fiction. The Year of Impossible Goodbyes is based on the author’s experiences and To Swim Across the World is based on the author’s parents’ experience.

When My Name Was Keiko by Linda Sue Park

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi

One Thousand Chestnut Trees by Mira Stout

To Swim Across the World by Frances Park and Ginger Park

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