Korean Thanksgiving

My informant is born and raised in Korea. She just moved to Los Angeles about 6 years ago.  When I ask her what she misses most about home she replies with a smile, “Thanksgiving!”.  She notices that I am confused and clarifies her answer.  “Korean Thanksgiving I mean”. She goes on to explain what “korean Thanksgiving” is. She tells me that Chuseok is like the Korean Thanksgiving. It’s celebrated in the span of three days sometime in September usually and is more like a harvest festival celebration. Korean persons must return to their child hood homes, or their parents’ homes. She says one must either go to their parents and/or cousins homes; someone who is immediate or very close family.  This is a way to pay respect to their ancestors. After, they can visit family friends and so on. For Chuseok, women, men and chidren dress in traditional formal Korean dress, called Hanbok. “It is like the Japanese Kimono, but not,” my informant explains. Upon arriving, one must formally greet the elders as a sign of respect. However on this day it is not the usual everyday bow greeting. One must crouch and bow touching their hands to the ground. Once greeting are done, they proceed to other traditional activities.

For Chuseok, a lot of food is prepared. Aside from a traditional dish, a rice cake soup, there is Korean BBQ rice dumplings kimchi, etc.. “Some are very traditional with their food.  They even set the table in certain ways. But mine isn’t too traditional, we just have A LOT of food”.  The moon shaped rice cakes are called Songpyeon and have a great significance in the Korean culture (see Half-moon Songpyeon Legend). “It is like our turkey”. Alcohol is also included in this festivity. My informant stresses that’s everyone drinks soju- a kind of rice vodka. Instead of watching football, my informant says they watch a movie perhaps. But on Chuseok, there are television “entertainment” specials like game shows or variety shows. The family will sit and watch these shows together.

Not only has Chuseok become a traditional family dinner, but the continuation of small customs are passed along from generation to generation. There is meaning and significance in every thing they do or even eat.