What is Chooseok? The first year I came to Korea, I was very curious about Chooseok because I had heard about ancestor worship, and some teacher at my school told me on Chooseok, his family went to his grandmother’s grave and prayed. No one would invite me for Chooseok when they invited me for everything else, and it made me more curious. I wondered if they were praying at Grandmother’s grave, if the Christians should be celebrating Chooseok. The secret type nature they seemed to have about what they did on Chooseok made me imagine all kinds of things. However, the things I imagined weren’t true. It is not a time of ancestor worship. It is a family time. The Koreans equate it to the American Thanksgiving, but it is a bit more than that because they also include going to the graveyard. It is more like Thanksgiving and Memorial day combined.
Today, when we went to E-Mart, we saw a sure sign that Chooseok is almost here. On Chooseok, the people like to dress in hanboks, the Korean national dress, and they especially like to dress their kids in hanboks. Whenever I have pictures of people in hanboks on my Facebook page or on my blog, people from other countries all check “like.” They love to see the Korean national dress because it is beautiful, so I took some pictures of the hanboks that were in Emart for you today.
Next week, the whole Korean peninsula is going to be one big traffic jam. Everyone will be trying to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They bow before Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma and Mommy will be completely busy! Korean women dread this time of year because they are expected to spend the time in the kitchen coming up with good Korean food.
The thing all the kids are looking forward to eating is chapchay. Chapchap is clear noodles with oil on them mixed with little pieces of vegetables. It is their holiday meal like we have turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy in America. The traditonal desert is seongpyeong, rice cakes, like Americans have pumpkin pie or Romanians have cosanac (sweet bread). I did a blog not long back about seongpyeong. There are pictures there if you are interested in what they look like. They are made with glutinous rice flour. They are boiled and have seeds, nuts, beans, and things like that in them. There is no sugar in seongpyeong.
Koreans don’t really treat Chooseok like we treat Thanksgiving. In America, we think no one should be alone on Thanksgiving. When I was a student, I always had the international students come home with me on Thanksgiving. Often, my dad would invite people from his work that he figured out would be alone on Thanksgiving. Here in Korea, on Chooseok, when I was at the university and my apartment was bigger, I knew none of the foreigners would be invited home with the Koreans for Chooseok, so I always had a foreigner gathering at my house on Chooseok, and many Koreans wanted to come too because they said their family wouldn’t do anything or they didn’t want to go to Grandma’s house. Once, we went to a special Chooseok gathering for foreigners at Geyeongbook Palace where a Korean organization had decided to feed all the foreigners on Chooseok, and we had a picnic in front of the palace. This year, we are talking about going to Geongbook Palace and inviting our foreign friends to go with us because foreigners get in to Geongbook palace for free on Chooseok.
(A Little Girl Wearing a Hanbok)
There are two really big holidays in Korea every year, the Lunar New Year the end of February and Chooseok, the beginning of the fall. They wear hanboks for both these holidays, and seeing the hanboks in Emart is a real sign that a big holiday is coming. People will be celebrating all week long next week. We usually try to stay home the day of Cheeseok because of the traffic jams. The only turkeys I have ever seen in Korea were from the American military base, but the base is closing, and we don’t have any way of getting one this year as usual. We usually just buy a large chicken and stuff it and make mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and pumpkin pie. No on will have the actually American Thanksgiving off at our house, so we usually make our Thanksgiving dinner on Chooseok. I hope you enjoy the pictures I took at Emart today for you of the children’s hanboks.