Happy Chuseok!

It’s apt that me, my friends and London itself have spent a very fun-filled and Korea-orientated weekend with Korea Calling at the Thames Festival, as today is Chuseok Day/ 추석 (traditionally called Hangawi/ 한가위), the biggest holiday in the Korean calendar. Everyone in Korea will have been celebrating Chuseok all weekend, but will also have a day off today for the full-blown traditions and festivities.

In the West, this holiday is usually referred to as ‘Korean Thanksgiving’, but is more akin to a harvest festival than American Thanksgiving. It signifies that Autumn is upon us and celebrates the crops and foodstuffs abundant at this time of year, as well as reflecting on ancestry and spending time with family.

So, what does one do on Chuseok, and how can we celebrate despite not having a day off?

Eat Songpeon (송편)

These half-moon-shaped sweet rice cakes are usually only eaten on Chuseok. They may be hard to get hold of here in London, but why not try making them yourself, following this Songpeon Recipe?

Drink Baekju (백주)

Being merry is very much in keeping with the Chuseok spirit! Treat yourself to some Korean wine this evening, available from most Asian supermarkets. Better still, share this with friends and/or family, in keeping with this happy time of year.

Dress in Chuseokbim

Chuseokbim is Chuseok-wear. This should be your “Sunday best”, and very typically, new clothes are bought especially for the occasion. What better excuse is there to get a nice, smart new outfit and dress up today?

Remember ancestors

Chuseok is a time for Korean people to consider their ancestry and honour their ancestors. During the charye (차례) ritual, prayers will be offered, and an altar laden with harvest foods laid out carefully. In the UK, we are less in touch with our ancestry, but today could be a good day to lend some thoughts and blessings to our ancestors. If you’re not familiar with your family tree, this could be a great opportunity to begin researching it.

Visit graves of passed relatives

Korean people will travel to loved ones’ graves to pay their respects today. They will pay particular attention to cleaning the grave site, clearing it of weeds and ensuring that it remains peaceful during a ritual called Beolcho (벌초). I will surely take some time to gratefully and fondly remember passed loved ones today.

Play

Children and adults alike should take some time to play on Chuseok Day. This traditionally ranges from wrestling tournaments to hoop chasing to a good old song and dance. Make sure that today isn’t just about work- have some time out and play hard too!

Give thanks

All in all, Chuseok is about giving thanks, so we should all be especially grateful today.In England, the Harvest Festival is generally only celebrated in primary schools. Here are the lyrics to one of my favourite school songs from harvest time, which I think fit very well with Chuseok:

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk inside a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well
So I mustn’t forget

No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And a winter’s moon with frosted rings
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the song the milkman sings.

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes so comfy though they’re worn out and they’re battered
And the taste of apple pie.

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.
Scent of gardens when the rain’s been falling
And a minnow darting down a stream
Picked-up engine that’s been stuttering and stalling
And a win for my home team.

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget!

Songpeon

THANKing everyone for reading and wishing you all a very happy Chuseok 🙂

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