Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving

Chuseok is the traditional Korea harvest festival, similar in many ways to Thanksgiving. It is a three day celebration, celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. This year it is taking place October 2~5 which means that we are lucky enough to have a four day week! As many of you know, Amanda and I are taking advantage of this our three day weekend to pop over to neighbouring Japan. I am so excited, I can barely breathe!

Similar to many other thanksgiving traditions, Chuseok involves the gathering of family to celebrate the fall harvest. Koreans from all over the country flock to their ancestral hometowns to pay their respects to their ancestors, whom they traditionally believe were responsible for the bountiful harvest. They gather together, visit and repair ancestral tombs and eat traditional Korean food.

One of the major foods prepared and eaten during the Chuseok holiday is songpyeon (송편), a crescent-shaped rice cake which is steamed upon pine needles. It is filled inside with a mixture of sugar and nuts. In my opinion, is quite delicious, although I have to admit that when I first arrived in Seoul, rice cake wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Like kimchi, its been an acquired taste since arriving in Korea.

For those of you little familiar with Korea, you might be surprised that the following picture is of the songpyeon that I just described. Rice cake in Korea is quite removed from the dry, hard, crackers that we consider to be rice cakes in the west. In Korea, its soft, chewy, and can have different flavours and textures depending on how its made, and what its made with. You can only find western variety rice cakes at Starbucks.

Like I said, an acquired taste.

Amanda and I are leaving for the airport tomorrow morning at 5:30am! Wish us luck, and a safe flight, and I'll be back to tell you all about our adventures before too long!

Happy Chuseok!

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