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What Is Chuseok Holiday In South Korea


by Opal Bilodeau



Chuseok, also known as the “Korean Thanksgiving,” is one of the most important and traditional holidays in South Korea. It is a time when families come together to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest and to honor their ancestors. Celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in September or October, Chuseok spans three days and is marked by various customs, traditions, and celebrations.


The origins of Chuseok can be traced back to ancient times when the Korean people relied heavily on agriculture. It was a time when the hard work and dedication of farmers resulted in bountiful harvests, and Chuseok served as an opportunity to express gratitude for the abundance of food and to celebrate the fruits of their labor.


Today, Chuseok continues to hold great significance in Korean culture, being a time for families to come together, pay respect to their ancestors, and express gratitude for the blessings in their lives. It is a time of reflection, unity, and celebration.


History of Chuseok

The history of Chuseok can be traced back over 2,000 years to the Silla period in Korean history. During this time, Chuseok was known as Hangawi and was celebrated as a harvest festival. It was a way for people to give thanks for the bountiful crops and to pray for a prosperous year ahead.


During the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, Chuseok became more rooted in Confucian traditions. Ancestors were believed to play a significant role in the lives of the living, and Chuseok became a time to honor and show respect to them. Families would visit their ancestral gravesites, clean them, and offer food and other symbolic items as a sign of reverence.


Chuseok also has historical roots in ancient Korean mythology. According to legend, there was once a fierce and destructive water serpent called the Imugi that caused havoc on Earth. To appease the Imugi, the Korean people would offer sacrifices during the autumn harvest festival, which eventually evolved into Chuseok.


Over time, Chuseok has gone through various changes and adaptations, but its core essence of expressing gratitude and honoring ancestors remains intact. Today, Chuseok is not only a time to celebrate the harvest but also a time to reflect on the cultural heritage and traditions of Korea.


Significance of Chuseok

Chuseok holds great cultural and historical significance in South Korea. It is a time when families come together to honor their ancestors, express gratitude for the abundance of food, and celebrate the harvest season. The holiday is deeply rooted in traditional Korean values and customs.


One of the key aspects of Chuseok is paying respect to ancestors. Families visit the gravesites of their ancestors, clean them, and offer food and other offerings as a sign of respect. It is believed that the spirits of the ancestors return to the earthly realm during Chuseok, and offering them food ensures their wellbeing and blessings for the family.


Chuseok is also a time for families to gather and reunite. Many Koreans travel long distances to be with their loved ones during the holiday. It is a time of togetherness and bonding, as family members come together to prepare food, share meals, and participate in various activities and customs.


Another significant aspect of Chuseok is the celebration of the harvest season. As an agricultural society, Korea has a deep appreciation for the importance of farming and the hard work that goes into growing crops. Chuseok provides an opportunity to give thanks for the abundance of food and to acknowledge the efforts of farmers and the natural cycle of life.


Beyond its cultural and historical significance, Chuseok also holds symbolic meaning. It represents the importance of gratitude, harmony, and unity. It is a time for self-reflection, as individuals express gratitude for the blessings in their lives and offer prayers for a prosperous future.


Overall, Chuseok is a cherished holiday in South Korea, symbolizing the country’s rich cultural heritage, the importance of family, and the deep connection to the land. It is a time to honor traditions, foster strong familial bonds, and express gratitude for the abundance of life.


Traditional Customs and Traditions during Chuseok

Chuseok is deeply rooted in traditional customs and traditions that have been passed down through generations in South Korea. These customs add a rich cultural flavor to the holiday and help create a sense of unity and connection among families and communities.


One of the main customs during Chuseok is the preparation of a special table called “Charye.” The Charye is set up to honor and pay respects to ancestors. It consists of various food items, including rice wine, fruits, and traditional dishes. Families gather around the Charye, bow to show respect, and offer prayers and gratitude for the blessings received.


Seongmyo, or visiting ancestral graves, is another important tradition during Chuseok. Families visit the burial sites of their ancestors to clean the graves, remove weeds, and offer food and other offerings. This act is a way of showing respect and expressing gratitude to the ancestors who have played a significant role in shaping the family’s history and identity.


Ssireum, a traditional Korean wrestling, is also a popular activity during Chuseok. It is a fun and competitive sport where participants wear a special belt and try to overpower each other. Ssireum matches are held in villages and communities, bringing people together to enjoy the festivities.


Ganggangsullae, a traditional Korean circle dance, is another customs during Chuseok. Typically performed by women, the dance involves forming a large circle and singing traditional folk songs while moving in a rhythmic manner. It is a joyful and communal activity that symbolizes unity and harmony.


Another tradition during Chuseok is Hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing. Many families dress in Hanbok attire during the holiday to honor and embrace their cultural heritage. They wear colorful, beautifully embroidered garments that represent the elegance and grace of Korean tradition.


Lastly, making and sharing Songpyeon, a type of rice cake, is a beloved tradition during Chuseok. Families come together to shape the rice dough into small round cakes filled with various ingredients like sesame seeds, red bean paste, or chestnuts. Sharing Songpyeon symbolizes the abundance of harvest and the spirit of generosity.


These traditional customs and traditions during Chuseok not only add depth and meaning to the holiday but also strengthen familial bonds, promote cultural heritage, and create a sense of unity among the Korean people.


Traditional Foods of Chuseok

Chuseok is a time of abundance and gratitude, and one of the ways this is celebrated is through the consumption of traditional foods that hold symbolic significance. These foods not only showcase the rich culinary heritage of Korea but also represent the bountiful harvest and the importance of family unity.


One of the most iconic traditional foods of Chuseok is Songpyeon. These small, crescent-shaped rice cakes are made from glutinous rice and filled with various ingredients such as sesame seeds, red bean paste, or chestnuts. The process of making Songpyeon is a family affair, with multiple generations coming together to shape the dough and fillings. These delicious treats symbolize the gratitude for the harvest and the wish for a prosperous future.


Another popular Chuseok food is Jeon, a type of savory pancake. Jeon can be made with a variety of ingredients such as fish, vegetables, or meat, and is typically dipped in a soy sauce-based dipping sauce. Jeon represents the abundance of harvest and is enjoyed as a family during Chuseok gatherings.


Japchae, a Korean stir-fried glass noodle dish, is also commonly served during Chuseok. Made with sweet potato noodles, various vegetables, and often accompanied by beef or shrimp, this flavorful and colorful dish symbolizes longevity and is a beloved addition to the Chuseok feast.


Galbi, or grilled beef short ribs, is another traditional food enjoyed during Chuseok. The marinated meat is grilled to perfection, resulting in tender and flavorful ribs that are often served with steamed rice, kimchi, and other side dishes. Galbi represents the celebratory nature of the holiday and is a favorite among families gathering for Chuseok.


Additionally, Chuseok is a time when Korean families enjoy a wide variety of side dishes, collectively known as Banchan. These can include various types of kimchi, pickled vegetables, seasoned seaweed, and tofu dishes. Banchan adds depth and variety to the Chuseok meal, and the sharing of these dishes symbolizes the generosity and abundance of the harvest.


Lastly, no Chuseok feast would be complete without the inclusion of various fruits. Fresh fruits such as apples, pears, grapes, and persimmons are enjoyed as a refreshing finale to the meal. They represent the sweetness and diversity of nature’s bounty.


These traditional foods of Chuseok not only satiate the taste buds but also serve as a way to honor and celebrate the harvest season, express gratitude, and strengthen familial bonds during this important holiday.


Activities and Celebrations during Chuseok

Chuseok is a time of joy, celebration, and coming together for families in South Korea. During this holiday, various activities and traditions take place, adding to the festive atmosphere and creating lasting memories.


One of the main activities during Chuseok is the gathering of family members from near and far. People travel long distances to be with their loved ones, often returning to their hometowns or ancestral villages. The reunion is a time of joy and togetherness, with families cherishing the opportunity to spend quality time with one another.


Visiting ancestral graves, known as Seongmyo, is an important Chuseok tradition. Families dress in traditional attire and make their way to the burial sites of their ancestors. They clean the graves, remove weeds, and offer food and other offerings such as fresh flowers. It is a solemn yet meaningful activity that allows families to express their respect and gratitude to their ancestors.


Another enjoyable activity during Chuseok is participating in traditional games and sports. Ssireum, a Korean style of wrestling, is a popular event during this holiday. Participants compete in fierce but friendly matches, displaying their strength and skill. In addition to Ssireum, there are also various traditional folk games such as Yutnori, where players toss sticks and move tokens along a game board.


During Chuseok, many cultural performances and events are organized to celebrate the holiday. Traditional music and dance performances, known as Nongak, are held in public spaces, attracting locals and tourists alike. These performances showcase the vibrancy of Korean culture and add to the festive atmosphere of Chuseok.


Food plays a central role in Chuseok celebrations. Families come together to prepare and enjoy a variety of traditional dishes. The process of making these dishes often involves multiple generations working together, sharing stories, and creating lasting memories. The shared meal is a time for laughter, conversation, and appreciation for the abundance of food and the blessings of the harvest.


Chuseok is also a time when families take the opportunity to explore and appreciate nature. Many people go on outings to parks, mountains, or riverside areas to enjoy the beauty of the autumn season. Some even take part in hiking or outdoor activities to connect with nature and appreciate the changing colors of the Korean landscape.


Overall, Chuseok is a time for celebration, camaraderie, and reflection. It is an occasion when families come together, honor traditions, partake in various activities, and create cherished memories that will be passed down through generations.


Modern Changes in Chuseok Celebrations

While Chuseok remains deeply rooted in tradition, modern changes have also influenced the way this holiday is celebrated in South Korea. These changes reflect the evolving nature of society and the desire to blend tradition with contemporary elements.


One notable change in Chuseok celebrations is the emphasis on convenience and technology. In the past, families would spend hours preparing traditional dishes from scratch. However, nowadays, many people opt for pre-packaged or ready-made foods to save time and effort. This shift allows families to focus more on spending quality time together rather than solely on food preparation.


With the advent of technology, virtual gatherings have become more common during Chuseok. Families who are unable to physically be together because of distance or other constraints now utilize video calling platforms to connect and celebrate virtually. Although it may not fully replace physical reunions, it provides a way for families to share the holiday even when they’re apart.


Another change in Chuseok celebrations is the incorporation of modern entertainment and leisure activities. Many families now take advantage of the holiday break to visit amusement parks, go on trips, or engage in recreational activities. This shift reflects the desire for more diverse and experiential ways of spending time together during Chuseok.


Additionally, Chuseok has become an opportunity for cultural exchange. With increased globalization and multiculturalism in South Korea, Chuseok celebrations now incorporate elements from different cultures. For example, some families may include dishes from other cuisines or participate in activities that reflect their diverse backgrounds. This inclusivity enhances the holiday experience and promotes a sense of unity among different communities.


Moreover, Chuseok has become more environmentally conscious in recent years. The use of eco-friendly materials and practices is encouraged, with many families opting for reusable or biodegradable food containers and reducing food waste. This shift towards sustainability aligns with the growing global concern for the environment.


Despite these modern changes, Chuseok remains a time when cultural traditions and values are preserved and cherished. Whether through the adoption of technology, the integration of diverse customs, or the pursuit of sustainable practices, these changes reflect a desire to adapt and keep the spirit of Chuseok alive in a rapidly changing world.



Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving, holds immense cultural and historical significance in South Korea. It is a time when families gather to give thanks, honor their ancestors, and celebrate the abundance of the harvest. This three-day holiday is marked by traditional customs, delicious food, and joyful celebrations.


Throughout the centuries, Chuseok has remained deeply rooted in Korean culture, serving as a reminder of the country’s agricultural heritage and the importance of family and community. The holiday has evolved over time, adapting to the changing modern world while still maintaining its core traditions.


As South Korea has become more connected and globalized, Chuseok has seen shifts in celebration practices. The use of technology allows families to gather virtually, and there is an emphasis on convenience and incorporating elements of multiculturalism. However, these changes do not diminish the significance of the holiday. Instead, they demonstrate the flexibility of traditions and the ability of cultural practices to evolve with the times.


Chuseok is a time for reflection, gratitude, and togetherness. It provides an opportunity to honor ancestors, express gratitude for the harvest, and create lasting memories with loved ones. From preparing traditional foods like Songpyeon to engaging in activities such as Ssireum and visiting ancestral graves, each aspect of Chuseok contributes to its rich tapestry of customs and traditions.


As South Korea continues to embrace modernity, it is heartening to see the preservation of tradition and the celebration of cultural heritage during Chuseok. This holiday serves as a reminder of the importance of connection to one’s roots, the appreciation of nature’s bounty, and the power of family bonds.


In conclusion, Chuseok is not just a holiday but a reflection of Korean identity and values. It symbolizes gratitude, family unity, and the rich history of South Korea. Through the celebration of Chuseok, Koreans honor their heritage, express their thankfulness, and reinforce the spirit of community and togetherness.