Celebrating Chuseok, Korea’s fall harvest festival filled with unique traditions
Chuseok is a major harvest festival with deep roots in Korea’s agrarian origins. Also known as Hangawi, Chuseok is one of the most important and festive holidays of the year in Korea. Chuseok is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which usually falls on September or October. It’s a time when Koreans give thanks to their ancestors for the abundant harvest and pray for their continued blessings in the year to come.
Like many traditions around the world, Chuseok starts with a plethora of dishes and the company of loved ones, and also involves activities passed down generations like traditional wrestling and ancient circle dance. The Chuseok harvest festival could be said to be comparable to Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Canada, but has stronger ties to the ground from which the harvest comes. Korea’s Thanksgiving dinner, featuring rice cakes and ancestral memorial ceremonies, may differ from Thanksgiving celebrations in other parts of the world. However, as with all holidays that bring people together, you’ll find a sense of community and gratitude that transcends cultures. Discover the three uniquely Korean customs and traditions you’ll encounter during Chuseok.
Songpyeon: Making (and eating) sweets that hold wishes for the future
Chuseok is a time when families gather under the harvest moon to give thanks to their ancestors for the bountiful harvest. One of the most popular and tastiest holiday traditions include the making of a rice cake known as songpyeon. More than just a special or seasonal treat, the act of making songpyeon carries profound symbolic weight. Fashioned into half-moon shapes from rice powder with a sweet filling, these cakes symbolize hopes and dreams for the future. The act of making songpyeon is as significant as the end product. Families gather, delving hands-first into the process, bonding over the preparation while reminiscing and reflecting on the season. The ages-old, intricate process of shaping songpyeon serves as a reminder of past traditions with current hopes, making it a core part of Chuseok festivities.
Charye: Paying respects to ancestors through ceremonial rites
Central to the Chuseok celebration is the custom of charye, or ancestor memorial services. The official Chuseok holiday falls on one day, but the day before and after Chuseok are designated public holidays, allowing Koreans to return to their hometowns to celebrate with their extended families and participate in ancestral rites. Early in the morning, families gather at their ancestral homes or gravesites to hold a memorial service, offering food, drink, and sometimes harvested crops. These offerings are presented on a ritual table, accompanied by newly harvested rice and distilled liquor, soju, signifying the bounty of the season. This act is a regular part of Korean holidays and a beautiful testament to the reverence Koreans hold for their ancestors and for Mother Nature.
Hanbok: Embracing heritage with traditional attire
Another widely practiced custom during Chuseok is wearing hanbok, the traditional Korean attire. While you might be hard-pressed to find modern Koreans wearing hanbok on their commute, it’s still very much a mainstay of traditional holidays like Chuseok and celebrations like weddings. Families dress up vibrant hanbok, adding color and heritage to the festivities. Certain designs and colors hold different meanings in traditional attire, but the hanbok of modern Koreans symbolizes respect and celebration, reminding them of the connection between culture and history that remains integral to Korean society.
How technology has changed the harvest season
Like all traditions worldwide, Korean harvest practices have been influenced by technological advancements. The introduction of mechanized farming, especially tractors and harvesters from companies like TYM, have dramatically altered the harvesting landscape over the past few decades, bringing about unprecedented efficiency and convenience in the field.
TYM’s tractors have been instrumental in transforming the Korean agricultural industry throughout our 70-year history. Our powerful machines have taken over the labor-intensive tasks of tilling, treating, and harvesting, drastically reducing the time and effort needed to bring each crop cycle to a close. With these innovations, farmers can now produce more with less, ensuring a plentiful bounty to celebrate each Chuseok with their loved ones.
As we marvel at the advancements in farming technology, we also remember the time-honored traditions of the rich culture they continue to support. Chuseok embodies the deep appreciation for nature’s bounty and the fruits of labor—which in the past relied heavily on nature’s whims and physical toil. With the introduction of agricultural machinery and smart farming practices, Chuseok continues to become as festive as the fall harvest is bountiful. In this fusion of tradition and innovation, we celebrate the essence of Chuseok—a tribute to diligence, innovation, and gratitude for the earth that nourishes us.