Between September 21st to the 23rd every year families come together during the Korean national holiday called Chuseok. During this period families participate in activities remembering and honoring their ancestors.
Songpyeon is prepared with rice or non-glutinous rice powder then kneaded into small golf ball sized dough balls. They are filled with sesame seeds, beans, red beans, chestnuts or other ingredients. Each ball is placed in a layer over pine needles adding a pine fragrance that Koreans find delightful. On the eve of Chuseok the family gathers making songpyeonbeneath the full bright moon. An old saying says the person who makes the most beautiful songpyeonwill attract a good-looking spouse. Therefore all the single-family members try producing the most elegant songpyeon.
Beyond making songpyeon, many Koreans will drink the traditional liquor called Baekju, a white wine. During the holidays it is a time for generosity and thankfulness therefore many Koreans will bond alongside their countrymen by sharing this traditional liquor.
Charye begins on the morning of Chuseok when family members gather at their homes holding memorial services to honor their ancestors. These formal services are held twice a year during Seollal (New Year’s Day) and Chuseok (Late September). During both holidays families consume a special food dish. For Seollalfamilies enjoy Tteokguk,a rice cake soup and for Chuseok, freshly harvested rice. After the Charyeservices families sit down together at the table to enjoy delicious foods that symbolize their blessings to their ancestors.
Seongmyo is when families visit their ancestors’ graves during Chuseok.While attending services at the burial mounds the families partake in Beolcho. Family members join in removing over grown weeds around the burial mounds. This custom is considered a duty, and an expression of devotion showing respect for one’s family. During the month prior to Chuseokmany families will visit their ancestral graves to fulfill their familial duties. During this period many of Korea’s highways become extremely congested with families visiting graves. Then the graves are visited again during Chuseok.
Ganggangsullae dates back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) when women dressed in traditaionl Korean clothing, Hanbok.The women would dress up, join hands in a circle and sing together. During the Japanese invasion the Korean army would dress their young women of the village in military uniforms having them circle the mountains making the Japanese think the Korean military was much larger than it actually was.