American’s thanksgiving day is getting closer. I like Korean Thanksgiving day, called Chu-seok, as I can taste many traditional savories and meet all my relatives! Living in the U.S. is a great experience that allows me to learn about new cultures such as Halloween, however, one thing makes me really sad since I came to the U.S. I cannot attend Chu-seok anymore, a very special day when I can enjoy my auntie’s food!
History of Chu-seok
Chu-seok is one of the major holidays in South Korea. Frankly, I did not know about the history part well. So I did some web searching! According to Naver Encyclopedia, the tradition of Chu-seok dates back to the Silla era, about 1000-1300 years ago. A king in the era divided the country into 6 different teams to have a weaving battle. Two queens led the teams to win the battle and let the losing team treat the winning team to food and drink to celebrate the victory. This weaving battle event took place between July 16 to August 15, the most fruitful season of the year. This tradition still continues until today even though we do not weave in Chu-seok anymore!
When I was a young kid, my family and relatives used to gather in my grandparent’s house one or two days earlier than the actual Chu-seok day began to prepare food together. Chu-seok was a day when all three generations gathered together, including grandparents, parents, kids, and sometimes grand-kids (maybe four generations!). More than a hundred relatives including my grandfather’s siblings and their descendants visited my grandparent’s house for a greeting. Now, you know why all my relatives got together earlier to prepare foods, we were cooking for more than 100 guests! There were many preparations for treating guests, but it was a very happy moment! We were not allowed to have the foods before a ritual in Chu-seok morning, we had to only watch the aunties making many different types of delicious pancakes (one of the pancakes tastes very similar to meatball, which you can easily imagine the taste!). But there was only one exception. When a pancake is broken, we could eat that! So my cousins and I would sit in front of the kitchen to wait until any broken pancake was produced. :p Also, my uncles and father became a good man on Chu-seok. Korean men, especially my father’s generation, normally do not help with housework. However, my father and uncles offered occasional help on Chu-seok such as peeling chestnuts (one of the food we place for ritual), which need strong hand power and skills! After the long day of food preparation, we eat food together and sleep over at the grandparent’s house all together. On Chu-seok day, we did the ritual to remember our ancestors in early morning and had breakfast together before having guests. All day was busy with setting the tables for endless guests, but I was very glad to meet many relatives. Sometimes, a few of my relatives gave us a small amount of pocket money to buy snacks! What a day!
However, after the death of my grandparents, we began to gather in my auntie’s place (It is very common to gather in the place of the oldest sibling after the death of parents), and there were no more visits from such big crowds of relatives. Even though the scale of the holiday became smaller, my father’s siblings and their kids, sometimes with grandkids, made my auntie’s house full.
Foods in Chu-seok
Writing this blog makes me very hungry. Hmmm. My auntie is a great cook, her food always makes me very happy. The number of foods and some ingredients used in the foods vary depending on region. So I want to introduce something I used to eat in my family. I spent most of my life in Seoul and my father is also from suburban area, one hour from Seoul. So the food was also kind of a simplified traditional food such as pancakes. But traditional rice cake, called Song-pyeon, is still always a mandatory item! I do not celebrate Chu-seok in the U.S. but I eat Song-peyon to recall my happy memories about this holiday. I feel very lucky as I can buy Song-pyeon from Korean grocery stores in Portland area during the week of Chu-seok based on the Korean calendar. I recently shared Song-pyeon with the ICSP members as a small celebration. I wish it was an interesting and meaningful experience for them.
I hope I could join Chu-seok soon again, to enjoy my auntie’s food and meet all my relatives. I miss the food, and I miss my family! Also, I wish all of you a warm and fruitful Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. which is coming soon next month!