Chuseok holiday rooted in ancient Korean history

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The Chuseok holiday in South Korea is similar to Thanksgiving in the United States.
The Chuseok holiday in South Korea is similar to Thanksgiving in the United States.

Chuseok holiday rooted in ancient Korean history

by: By Cpl. Lim Hyung-sub | .
2nd Infantry Division | .
published: September 26, 2012

Editor's note: If you plan on doing some traveling this weekend, be prepared to "hurry up and wait." It's the Chuseok holiday and Koreans will be hitting the roads to visit their families. For those new to Korea, Cpl. Lim Hyung-sub does a nice job explaining what the holiday is all about, so read on ...

CAMP RED CLOUD — Chuseok is a major Korean holiday, similar to Thanksgiving.

Chuseok is an ancient tradition with deep cultural roots and holds a place of real significance for the Korean people.

Chuseok will fall on Sept. 29 - Oct.1 this year. Keep those dates in mind. You’ll see why.

The name, Chuseok, means an autumn night with the best moonlight. Historical records place the origin of Chuseok in the Three Kingdoms period, approximately
2,100 years ago.

Beginning as an agricultural celebration, teams of women from neighboring villages would compete against one another to see who could weave more cloth.

At stake was a meal prepared from the year’s first harvest. They would then use the resulting cloth to make new clothes, which would be worn to pay respect to ancestors at their burial mounds.

Together they would celebrate the change of season with various activities. Gang Gang Sul Lae is the most well-known of these. It translates, roughly, to the turning of the wheel and was a circle dance the women would perform beneath the light of a full moon.

Together, the women and the full moon formed a strong symbolism for wealth and served as a prayer for a blessed year.

However, as Korea transformed from an agrarian to an industrial society, many of the community traditions fell away and their significance was transferred to the remaining family level events.

Today, everybody returns to their hometown and gathers with their family for Chuseok.

Now, back to those dates mentioned earlier. Don’t even think about traveling. The national migration always creates a national traffic jam. The highways turn into gigantic parking lots. But people endure the quadrupled travel time because, well … it’s Chuseok.

Actually, to be fair, some people dread the holiday. For them, after enduring the unique pain of the journey, they must then navigate the inevitable comments and judgments from their numerous relatives on every aspect of their life — from career and financial status to personal relationships.

While it may sound awful, you don’t have a choice. It’s Chuseok.

However, despite all the hassle, Chuseok is still a very special time for Korean families. Most of the large-scale celebrations are gone now. But the closeness of the holidays survives with holiday foods, family gatherings and the traditional honoring of ancestors.

So, if you know any Korean families, wish them speedy travels and a peaceful Chuseok. They’re going to need it.

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