Best time to go to Seoul

Chuseok (Harvest Moon Festival) 2024

Chuseok is the Korean version of American Thanksgiving—an important holiday, when locals leave for grandma's house in the countryside to follow ancient traditions and, most importantly, to feast on abundant homemade delicacies

Dates: September 16-18, 2024

Chuseok (Harvest Moon Festival)
Chuseok (Harvest Moon Festival)

If you are travelling to South Korea in mid to late September or early October you are just in time to observe Chuseok or the Harvest Moon Festival. Originally called Hangawi, the celebration falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, during the full moon. You are even luckier if you get invited to join a Korean family's ancestral home on this memorable occasion. Expect a feast of traditional Korean dishes and bear witness as families make offerings to their ancestors. Two major traditions of the Chuseok are 'Charye' (memorial services at home to honour ancestors) and 'Seongmyo' (visit to the ancestral graves).

Holiday Foods

The Chuseok celebration can't go on without a special festive treat called songpyeon. It's a rice cake with sesame seeds, beans, and other typical ingredients. These cakes are either left white or colored pink, yellow, purple, or green. Hangwa is another cake-like cookie eaten during the festival. It's made with rice flour, honey, fruit and roots. Japchae noodles with vegetables and jeon, or Korean pancakes, are also often served. One more festive specialty is sindoju, a rice liquor made with freshly harvested rice.

Ganggangsullae or Circle Dance

Other traditions include the Ganggangsullae, a traditional Korean dance, performed by women dressed in authentic silk clothing, known as Hanbok. The dancers begin their performance in a circle, holding hands. As the dance progresses, the shape transforms into other forms, such as serpentine, several smaller circles, and others. The dancing is done to the music and singing of a specially selected singer.

Games and Sports

Locals love playing games as part of the Chuseok celebration. Wrestling matches called Ssireum, archery contests, tug-of-war games, swinging games, and much more are played during the celebration. Korean bullfighting, or possum, is another popular activity to watch during the holiday. Korean bullfighting is not cruel to animals. The prime objective of the sport is to show off the training skills of a bull master. Bulls butt heads on the ring until one of them yields. This tradition is common in the city of Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province.

Typically, this feast spans a couple of days, namely Chuseok day, the day before, and the day after. Transportation is extremely busy so make sure to book everything early. Doing a staycation in big cities is a good idea during this time—some form of peace and quiet in a big city is rare and precious.

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