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Chusok - Harvest Moon Festival, Korean Thanksgiving
Chusok, or Chu Suk, also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Chusok means a great day in the middle of August. It occurs during the harvest season. Thus, Korean families take this time to thank their ancestors for providing them with rice and fruits. |
The celebration starts on the night before Chusok and ends on the day after the holiday. Thus, many Korean families take three days off from work to get together with family and friends.
The celebration starts with a family get-together at which rice cakes called "Songphyun" are served. These special rice cakes are made of rice, beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. Then the family pays respect to ancestors by visiting their tombs and offering them rice and fruits. In the evening, children wear their favorite hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and dance under the bright moon in a large circle. They play games and sing songs. Like the American Thanksgiving, Chusok is the time to celebrate the family and give thanks for their blessings.
1.What is the meaning of Chu Suk?
Long, Long ago in Korean history during the Shilla Dynasty, "Chu Suk" was called "Gah Beh." The word "Gah Beh" was derived from Chinese Characters. It is not from the Korean Language. As time passed the word "Gah Beh" changed to the word, "Gah Wee."
In other Languages "Chu Suk" is called "Han Gah Wee." The word Han Means "Big!" and the words "Gah Wee" means in the center. These words originated a long time ago.
August 15th in the Asian Calendar is consider the official day of Chu Suk, the meaning of Chu Suk simply means, it is in the middle of the year, the middle of August and a very big day. Up until recently, "Sull", Jan. 1st and Dan Oh were two of Korea's more famed holidays. Now "Sull" and "Chu Suk" are recognized as the two big holidays in Korea.
2.When did Chu Suk Start?
Many generations ago, Chu Suk, became a nationally recognized holiday.
According to, "The Three Kingdom" history book, written by Kim Bu Sik, in 32 AD, the story goes the king of Shilla, King You Ree, took women from 6 local towns and separated them into two groups.
The King requested that the women make clothing to see who was the better at weaving. Both groups had a Team leader who was part of the of the king's immediate family, they were two of his many Daugthers. The two princesses organized their groups and worked very diligently to foremost impress their father and secondly to be the better team at weaving. Because of this, The agreement became more or less into a contest and the losing side would have to prepare and serve dinner and drinks to the winning side. "Sound like a great amount of hard work and stress."
The women from the two groups weave clothing from the Hemp Plants that grow through out Korea.They would gather these hemp plants and put the hemp into a simple pot, stemming the hemp then taking it out and putting it into a pot of fresh spring water. After the women dipped the hemp plants into the cold water, they would take off the outer covering and split the plant. From the separated hemp plant they would take strings and put them onto a spinning wheel. From there it was put on a loom and made into clothing. This was a very difficult and time consuming process but, since the King divided the women into two groups it become more or less a contest of skill. Both groups feeling the pressure to become the winning side work very hard.
Within one month's time the King and Queen would decide which team of women were the better at weaving. Although the outcome was for the winner to be served by the losing team, everyone enjoyed the feast as well as celebrated with songs and dance. With only one exception the losing side had to perform a traditional song.
The title of this song is, "Hoe So, Hoe So..." This song has a very sad and sorrowful meaning.
As the time went on people change some of the context of the song and now the song's name has changed to "Hoe So Gok!" From this special event that King You Ree requested, was the beginning of a 2000 year holiday, the start of present day "Chu Suk." In the Asian Calendar year, "Chu Suk" was founded on August 15th.
3.What do we do during Chu Suk?
During Chu Suk families from all around Korea pack up and head on the road to visit their families ancestral sites.
Upon arriving to their descendant's sites, the elders cut the growing plantation, as a symbolic gesture meaning the remembrance of their heritage and ancestors. This gesture is done supposedly in a secretive fashion for no other reason except for a matter of respect.
A few days before the Chu Suk holiday, begins families prepare special dishes for the ancestral site memorial. When Families arrive in their hometowns, the first order of business is the sharing of clean the house and preparing the special dishes called "Jun", which is simply grilled food as well as many types of vegetables and fruits and a special dish called, "Song Pyon." When August 15th comes around, the food that is prepared is placed at a Memorial Service table. This practice is done early in the morning.
After this the family members change their clothes into more formal attire before the Service. At the Memorial Service families say a few respectful phrases to their ancestors regarding how they are living their lives and wishing the deaseced good fortune.
A Long time ago, the heads of the families, usually the men were the only ones involved in the memorial services, but now this has changed and every member in the family participates in this Traditional Ceremony.
The food that was previously prepared food is eaten in the morning before attending the Memorial Service site. When the final preparations are set at the memorial site families pay their respects to the grave site, this paying of respect is consider a very important rite to the Korean people. This is why during this holiday the roads are very packed so you can see why Koreans valve this holiday as a very important day.
When arriving at the Memorial Site, families pay a formal bow to their ancestors and talk about everything from family concerns to their ancestor's welfare.
The older family members also tell stories to the younger family members, so they will also remember and always follow in the same path. This is a time for families to reach out to each other and become closer with one another.
After service is finished family members eat together and celebrate. But more importantly the lesson that is learned is always paying the respect to their elder's and having a thankful heart towards other people. So in conclusion, the lesson is respect and value of one's self to others.
4. What is done on Chu Suk?
On Chu Suk day the most significant theme is having a good time.
This is called "Kang Kang Sue Wol lae" ( This is not a exact translation but is very close to it's meaning.)
"Kang Kang Sue Wol lae", starts the night before Chu Suk. Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae, is a traditional ceremony of sort, where ten to twenty women gather together and form a circle and sing songs together, basically having a good time. This ceremony is only done by women.
The ceremony is still done by Korean women but only by choice. During this time there is a song that is sung by the women who participate in, "Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae."
It starts like this.
In the heavens there are many stars. Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae
Friends are great, gardens are beautiful. Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae
There are many pine trees, there are many pine needles. Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae
There are many bamboo trees. Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae
This is only the beginning of the Song, but the meaning involves the processes of Chu Suk and the day itself. This ceremony has many meanings but, the most important one is it reflects Korean values on women. Therefore it is a time of great emotion and involves much physical movement for the Korean Women.
During "Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae" it is a very stress free time for women to be carefree.
To this day, there is no record of when actually Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae, started but the general opinion seems to think before Korea had a written history was recorded. There is a famous story about "Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae", that I would like to share with you it goes like this.
A long time ago during Cho Sun Dynasty, There was a captain in the Arm Forces, who was in charge of a small merry band of soldiers. (During this time Japan was at war with Korea.) On this particular occasion the Japanese were preparing to invade Korea at it's beach side borders. This Captain knowing that the Japanese were about to invade, had to devise a plan to stop the invaders and protect this homeland. (You see the Japanese out numbered the Korean Soldiers to about five to one.)
With quick thinking the captain order as many women from local towns to come, and quickly change into soldier clothing and perform "Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae." From the Japanese side they saw that there were many more soldiers than they first initially anticipated, therefore the Japanese decided to withdraw fearing they would be overwhelmed. From this occasion, to some people this Captain became a hero for Korea because he stopped the invasion of the Japanese. The Captain's name is Lee Soon Shin. From this day on "Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae" became a very famous time and is still practiced throughout out Korea.
"Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae" was originally started in the Southern parts of Korea. In the Asia Calendar, Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae is usually three days long starting on the 15th to the 17th.
During "Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae", Korean women dress in the traditional Korean dress, called the Han Bok
There is another famous saying that when, the Moon is full and the women are dancing and singing they look like beautiful butterflies fluttering around. During this time there are other activities that are done during Chu Suk (except during Kang Kang Sue Wol Lae), they are Korean Wrestling, Archery, singing folk music, and a game called turtle tag. (Turtle Tag is when a person will be dressed in a covering crawling around trying to catch the other people around them.)
In Korea Folk Music, is not only done during Chu Suk but as well as other holidays and during Exorcism. Folk Music is performed in most of time when a special occasion occurs.
Folk Music is looked upon as a very important part of any special occasion. In the Asian calendar, on the 15th of every month, the full moon is out. This particular day is call, the "Borum Moon." Which means, simply means full moon. During the Asian calendar year there are twelve full moons, but the day Chu Suk falls on is supposedly the largest and brightest of the twelve.
Remember that Chu Suk falls on August 15th in the Asian Calendar Year. During Chu Suk, when the moon is full people in Korea believe if you make a wish to the moon, supposedly it will come true. So next time it is August 15th, Chu Suk, and the moon is full make a wish you never know it just might come true.
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|Behnaz: Hi||2015/12/11 18:59:00|
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