As you can tell by the title, the Mid-Autumn Festival is referred to as 추석 “Chuseok” in Korea.
추석 Chuseok, a major harvest festival, is one of Korea’s biggest holiday celebrations and is a three-day holiday in Korea (14th – 16th of the 8th lunar month).
Both North Korea and South Korea celebrate this festival.
추석 Chuseok is also translated as the “Korean Thanksgiving” in American English. 추석 Chuseok is equivalent to what Americans celebrate “Thanksgiving”.
So if you are wondering what do Koreans do on this day, I’m going to break it down for you!
1. The Koreans get together with their family on Chueseok!
In modern-day, on 추석 Chuseok, masses of people travel from big cities to their hometowns to pay respect to the spirits of their ancestors.
The eldest son will worship their deceased ancestors and followed by the family dancing together while appreciating the moon.
Young girls can be seen in colorful traditional clothes, playing springboard games
2. Ancestor Worship Ceremonies On Chuseok
In the morning, the Koreans perform ancestral worship rituals known as 차례, 茶禮“Charye”. They worship their ancestors as a symbol of honor and returning of favors.
They also prepare and present special food such as freshly harvested rice, rice cakes (송편, 松片 songpyeon), fruit, vegetable and fresh meat as an offering to their ancestors.
The arrangement of the foods of 차례, 茶禮 Charye on the table is extraordinary; rice and soup and placed on the north, fruits and vegetables are placed on the south, meat dishes are placed on the west/middle while the rice cakes and drinks such as 막걸리 makgeolli or 소주; 燒酒 soju are placed on the east.
3. Tomb visiting and tomb cleaning on Chuseok
성묘 Seongmyo (tomb visiting & bowing) and 벌초 Beolcho (tomb- cleaning) are also done around Chuseok week.
성묘 Seongmo is a visit by the family to their ancestral grave sites where each of them take turns to bow at their ancestors and 성묘 Beolcho is when they remove weeds around the grave and trim the grass. They also offer food,drinks and crops to their ancestors.
4. Preparing food on Chuseok!
One of the main food the Koreans prepare and eat during the 추석 Chuseok festival is the 송편, 松片 sonpyeon, a traditional Korean rice cake which contains a variety of ingredients such as sesame seeds, cinnamon, walnut, chestnut, jujube, honey, black beans, and mung beans.
So, instead of eating mooncakes as the Chinese do, the Koreans eat 송편, 松片 songpyeon.
The 송편, 松片 songpyeon is also exceptional because of the meaning the shape carries. 송편, 松片 Songpyeon rice skin resembles the shape of a full moon but once it is filled with stuffing, the shape resembles the half-moon.
When cooking 송편; 松편 songpyeon, steaming them over a layer of pine-needles is crucial. The pine needles do not only help with the 송편; 松편 songpyeon’s aromatic smell, taste, and beauty.
The word “song” in 송편, 松片 songpyeon means a pine tree in the Korean language.