Today at school we celebrated Chuseok, which is sometimes called Korean Thanksgiving or compared to a harvest festival. The three-day holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar (which falls on Wednesday, September 22nd this year).
During Chuseok, there is a mass exodus of Koreans returning to their hometowns to pay respects to the spirits of their ancestors. People perform ancestral worship rituals early in the morning. They often visit the tombs of their ancestors to trim plants and clean the area around the tomb, and offer food, drink, and crops to their ancestors. Harvest crops are attributed to the blessing of ancestors. They also share a feast of Korean traditional food.
One of the customs of Chuseok is to wear a hanbok, which is the traditional Korean outfit. The hanbok is often characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets. Women’s hanbok consists of jeogori (a blouse shirt or a jacket) and chima (a wrap-around skirt, which is usually worn full). Men’s hanbok consists of jeogori and baji (baggy pants). I was lucky enough to wear a hanbok today! As were all of the teachers and students at my school. 🙂
First we made songpyeon, which are half-moon-shaped rice cakes and the traditional Chuseok food. We stuffed ours with sesame seeds and beans. They are usually steamed over a layer of pine needles (ewww) but we skipped that part of the process. The kids had lots of fun making and decorating them, especially making animal faces out of the beans!
Then we played four traditional Chuseok games: tuho (arrow throwing), yut (I was confused so check out the link to understand!), archery, and jegichagi (kicking a shuttlecock/hacky sack).
I also got a nice wine set as a present from the school director. Bummed that I didn’t get one of the Spam, dried fish, or root vegetable gift sets I’ve seen displayed so prominently in the grocery stores (extreme sarcasm there).
Taiwan tomorrow! A typhoon hit Hualien yesterday (which is our first stop) but hopefully all is well at our hotel… and it doesn’t rain our entire vacation!!