Every year, on August 15th of the lunar calendar, the countries of the East Asian cultural sphere (China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Vietnam) happen the Mid-Autumn Festival jubilantly. There is a hypothesis thinking that the festival has an origin from China. However, so far, no one knows exactly when it started. Although the Mid-Autumn Festival of these countries has the same points, it also has different ones. Mid-Autumn Festival in Korea has its own features and we will learn more about it as follows.
Meaning of Mid-Autumn Festival in Korea
In Korea, the Mid-Autumn Festival is called Chuseok Festival which aims to express gratitude to Jade Emperor, Buddhas and gods having helped people have a bumper crop. This is also an opportunity for families to express their gratitude to their ancestors who have given birth and brought up. This is also the occasion for a family reunion, and the community together has fun. Because the Chuseok Festival has important meanings, it is organized as big as Seollel Festival (the Lunar New Year in Korea) by Korean.
Activities at the festival
Seongmyo means sweeping tombs. On Chuseok Day, Korean families go to their ancestral graves, cut weeds and clear the area around the tombs. After cleaning the graves, the families offer trays of fruits, cereals, and products harvested in the last crop to ancestors. Those things show respect and gratitude for ancestors. Seongmyo custom is the same Qingming custom in China in March of the lunar calendar and Tảo Mộ customer in Vietnam in December of the lunar calendar.
In the early morning of the first day of Chuseok Festival, the entire Korean family gathers in the main space of the house, where ancestral altars are located to conduct the remembrance ceremony. If at Seollel Festival (the Lunar New Year), the typical dish is Tteok-guk (rice cake soup), on Chuseok Festival, the main food used to offer the ancestors is Mebap (lately harvested rice). After offering, family members together “enjoy the bud” of the ancestors. A characteristic of culinary culture in general, as well as the ritual culture in particular in Korea, is the dish displayed in small plates, called Banchan. Like Vietnam and Chinese, on festivals like this, the women in the family are always the busiest and the hardest people to prepare offerings and dishes for other family members.
This is a typical game of Chuseok Festival passed down from women in Seonamhaean Province. This game is played under the full moonlight; the girls hold hands in a circle to sing and dance. In an agricultural society, the full moon is a symbol of the proliferation, very similar to the female reproductive function. Full moon day is also compared to the day of the women giving birth. Ganggangsulae game on the full moon day is a song about the beauty of the moon and the women.
Juldarigi means tug-of-war. This is a collective game; two teams compete against each other, and have an equal number of participants; the more the number of participants joins are, the longer and bigger the string is; Villages compete against each other. The intense drums, the screams, laughter and the energetic faces sparkling with sweat make the atmosphere of the Chuseok Festival more exciting and joyfully. This game is popular with Koreans, especially teenagers.
Ssireum means wrestling. During the Chuseok Festival, Ssireum is an indispensable game for the boys to show their strength. On the grass or on the sand, competitions were organized in the form of gradual elimination; The winner is the last stayer and is honored as Jangsa (strong fighter) and received many awards from the villagers.
Olgesimni is the custom hanging dry cereals in the front door. After harvesting, Koreans pick the most beautiful, ripe bundles of cereals to hang on the pillars, doors or porch. These bundles of cereals are used as seeds for the following year, for making cakes offering ancestors, or for serving guests when there is a party. This custom shows the wish to have abundant crops.
The typical dishes in Korea at Full moon festival
Songpyeon is a typical cake made with new rice flour, filled with sesame and red beans. If Moon Cake in Vietnam is made in a circle or square, Songpyeon Cake is shaped into a semicircle. After molding, the cake is put into the steamer; underneath is lined with pine leaves to make the cake have a pure flavor.
Chuseok is also considered a festival of cakes. Although each locality has different methods and ingredients for making cakes; they all use freshly harvested cereals to give thanks to God and the ancestors for a bumper crop. According to legend, the girls who make the most beautiful Songpyeon Cake would meet the handsome and intelligent men. Therefore, at Chuseok Festival, the girls gather together to make cakes and vote to find who makes the most beautiful cakes in cheerful laughter.
Toraguk means Taro soup. Because taro is high in starch and viscousness, it is necessary to boil it through saltwater or rice water. Taro soup is usually simmered with beef brisket or beef tendon and is considered a nutritious, frugal soup, suitable for enjoying in the fall.
Baekju means White Alcohol. On the occasion of Chuseok, Koreans like to eat and drink with their family, entertain friends; on the banquet table, it is indispensable for alcohol. In addition to the ordinary alcohol, Soju, there is traditional alcohol made from new rice called Baekju.