By Cpl. Lim Hong-seo (IMCOM)September 8, 2013
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- Chuseok, similar to the American Thanksgiving, is the biggest holiday of Korea. Chuseok is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. During Chuseok, Korean people visit their ancestors' grave sites, eat traditional food and play folk games, enjoying the holiday with family members. This year it will be celebrated on Sept. 18 - 20.
Some say Chuseok historically originates from Gabae, held during the reign of the Shilla Dynasty (57BC -- 935AD). Gabae was a weaving competition between two teams, and the team that won enjoyed a feast offered by the losing team. Others say it originates from ancient shamanistic belief in which ancient people worshiped local deities and their ancestors during the full harvest moon.
In the past, when Korea was a predominantly agrarian society, Koreans gathered in at their hometowns with the relatives and prayed for the success of upcoming harvests by performing the ancestral rite. After the memorial service, people played folk games and shared food to forge tighter kinship with each other.
Chuseok is considered the biggest and most meaningful holiday among Koreans, and approximately 30 million people still travel to their hometowns. That's another reason why it is considered the busiest holiday. During the three-day celebration, 65 percent of the Korean population is on the road.
"I will travel to Pohang which is about 200 miles away from Seoul to meet my parents and relatives," said Cpl. Lee Chang-hyun, a USAG Yongsan administrative specialist for ROKA Staff Office. "During Chuseok, it is extremely hard to obtain train tickets, so I have to buy them as soon as possible. Although it is a long trip back home, I am so excited to meet my family and spend a good time with them."
Among many foods, a Korean traditional rice cake called Songpyeon is the most popular food during Chuseok. Filled with stuffing made with many nuts and honey, Songpyeon is steamed over layers of pine-needles to add an aromatic smell and taste. The word 'Song' means pine tree in Korean.
"I love Chuseok because you get to eat many traditional foods that you do not eat very often," said Pfc. Kwak Min-gyu, an administrative specialist for 403rd AFSB. "My favorite is of course Songpyeon. I'd recommend all U.S. service members and civilians to try it once, so they could also feel the festive atmosphere during Chuseok."