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Chuseok

Jesasang, ceremonial table setting on Chuseok.
Korean name
Hangul 추석
Hanja
Revised Romanization Chuseok
McCune–Reischauer Ch'usŏk

Chuseok (Korean: 추석), originally known as Hangawi (한가위) (from archaic Korean for "great middle"), is a major harvest festival and a three-day holiday in Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Like many other harvest festivals, it is held around the Autumn Equinox. As a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional food.
History of Chuseok, Korea's biggest holiday

Chuseok is one of the four major holidays in Korea, along with Lunar New Year's Day, National Foundation Day and Liberation Day. It is also called Hangawi (Harvest Moon Festival) or Jungchujeol, which stand for mid-autumn day. Chuseok became a nationwide holiday because most people across the country celebrated it over that particular period. The earliest record of Chuseok is found in an ancient Korean history text “Samguksagi”

The “Yuri Isageum” chapter of the “Samguksagi” describes how the Korean traditional holiday started. In 32 B.C., a king placed six administrative departments of the Shilla Kingdom (57 B.C.- A.D. 935) under the direction of two princesses who led women in daily weaving races from the 16th day of the 7th lunar month to the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Aug. 15 on the lunar calendar is designated for the official date for Chuseok.

The two teams would show off their skills. The losing side would have to present drinks and food to the other, holding ceremonies with song and dance. Such ceremonies are known as “gabae.” One day a woman on the losing side lamented, “Hee-so, Hee-so.” Because it sounded beautiful, although so tragic, an official song, called “Hee-so music,” was composed.

The ancient Chinese record also wrote that the “Kingdom of Shilla placed special meaning on Aug. 15 and held ceremonies with musical performances. The nobles would hold an archery match,” demonstrating once again that it was indeed a nationwide celebration for Koreans in the old days.

The importance of Chuseok is closely related to the importance of agriculture in Korea. Working in rice paddies could be time consuming. Once winter passes, the farmers incessantly go out in the field for rice farming, dry-field farming, barley raising, rice-seed sowing, rice planting, weeding and finally harvesting.

By the time of harvest the first grains and fruits are ready. Just before the harvest, the farmers also have to wait for the ripening of rice crops under the hot rays of the sun. During the in-between period, farmers take a break to present the year's harvest to their ancestors as an expression of gratitude. In the southeastern part of Korea, the observance is called “Putbashim,” and in the southwestern part, it is called “Olbyeoshimri.” Women make taro soup with the most abundant vegetable in that season.

References

The Academy of Korean Studies, ed. (1991), "Chuseok", Encyclopedia of Korean People and Culture, Woongjin (in Korean)

Farhadian, Charles E. (2007). Christian Worship Worldwide. Wm. Bm. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9780802828538.  

Korea University Institute of Korean Culture, ed. (1982), "Social Life", Korean Heritage Overview, 1, Korea University   (in Korean)

See also

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