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As we approach the end of September, along with the cool autumn breeze, the Korean Thanksgiving holiday of Chuseok draws near.
Chuseok is celebrated on the 15th day of August in the lunar calendar, and this year it falls on Sept. 29, with the days preceding and following it also designated as holidays.
The typical three-day Chuseok holiday, however, has been extended to six consecutive days off, with Oct. 2 designated as a special one-off holiday and Oct. 3 being National Foundation Day.
Chuseok's origins lie in the tradition of wishing for a bountiful harvest under the full moon, offering rituals to ancestors for the harvest season.
Among the various foods prepared during Chuseok, the most iconic delicacy is songpyeon, half-moon-shaped rice cakes filled with ingredients like sweet honey sesame, red bean paste and chestnut paste.
Moreover, the holiday period becomes even more enjoyable with traditional folk games such as yuninori (a Korean board game), ssireum (Korean wrestling), and juldarigi (a tug-of-war game).
At night, a ritual dance called Ganggangsullae is performed by women dressed in hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) under the full moon. They form a circle, holding hands while singing and dancing.
On the morning of Chuseok, charye (ancestor memorial services) take place to honor ancestors by offering various foods like songpyeon, harvested rice, fruits and alcohol.
Another similar ancestral rite is seongmyo, or ancestral graveyard ceremonies. By visiting ancestral graves and performing a memorial service, family members demonstrate reverence and appreciation for their ancestors.
The Korean traditional dish tteokguk is prepared for Seollal, or Korean Lunar New Year. It is believed that every Korean advances one year in age by eating a bowl of tteokguk on New Year’s Day.