Chuseok, the Korean thanksgiving, is a Korean traditional holiday that is celebrated every 15th day of the eighth month of lunar calendar. During this period, Koreans usually gather with their relatives and family, while enjoying some traditional food such as rice cake, called songpyeon, and rice wine, called makgeolli. Officially, Chuseok holiday starts three days prior to 15th of lunar calendar, which falls on 3rd to 5th of October. But the holiday was slightly longer this year due to substitution holiday and a national Hangeul Day celebrated on 9th of October. While most of local students are going back to their hometown to celebrate Chuseok, lots of international students also planned for the long holiday. The Dongguk Post interviewed four international students to learn about their country’s thanksgiving tradition as well as what they did to celebrate Chuseok in Korea.
Lamia Derkaoui (Senior, Business Administration) from Idrac Business School
/Photograph by Alexia Muller
Mariah Goldsmith (Senior, Animal Science/Business Administration) from Tarleton State University
/Photograph by Amelia Yolanda
Silvia Cosmo (Junior, Language, Culture and Society of Asia and Mediterranean Africa) from Ca'Foscari University
/Photograph by Alexia Muller
Geronime Guedou (Junior, Business/Global MBA) from Graduate School of business
/Photograph by Amelia Yolanda
Q. Do you know what Chuseok is and what Koreans do on Chuseok?
Lamia : Well, I do not exactly know what it is in detail but I have heard that it is a very important celebration in Korea, a kind of “Korean Thanksgiving.” I also think that this is one of the longest period of holidays. My Korean friends told me that it is a very important celebration for them. In fact, they are going to visit their families to share delicious traditional dishes. I am sure that there are many other interesting things that they will do, but that is all I know.
Mariah : Not really, I knew it was equivalent to Thanksgiving in the US, but I did not know how long it is or what exactly Koreans do on Chuseok. However, according to what I have heard, it is very similar to what we do on Thanksgiving Day, when we gather with friends and family, just relax, and eat a lot of food.
Silvia : The Chuseok holiday this year is from the third to fifth of October. But it is not the only celebration, I know that there is another holiday to celebrate the creation of alphabet by King Sejong on ninth of October. Some Korean friends told me that they would come back to their hometown, stay with their family, prepare traditional food and have a memorial service for their ancestors during Chuseok.
Geronime : Chuseok is a Korean version of Thanksgiving. It is a period when people should be thankful for everything they have received from their lives, for people around them and also for their family and friends. From what I know, Koreans usually gather with their family, have lunch or dinner together and go back to their hometown to meet their family on Chuseok.
Q. Do you have this kind of celebration in your country? If you have one, how do you celebrate it?
Lamia : In France, we do not have any kind of Thanksgiving because it has nothing to do with our history. However, French people usually celebrate Christmas, which is one of the most important celebration for us. During Christmas, it is very important to gather with family and eat a lot. Usually we eat some oyster and foie gras and white wine as appetizer, then we usually eat turkey stuffed with chestnut and drink red wine with it. And for dessert, we eat the traditional yule log: the best part of the dinner. At midnight, we open all the gifts we had previously put under the Christmas tree.
Mariah : We have Thanksgiving which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It is the time when we usually get together with our friends and families while having a feast. We usually eat turkey with various side dishes and enjoy winter squash and sweet potatoes as well. On Thanksgiving, some communities usually hold charity events to share some food with less fortunate people. And everybody normally watches American football on Thanksgiving. The celebration usually lasts for a weekend.
Silvia : Yes. We have a lot of national events, like the end of the Second World War, or the Labor day. There are also a lot of folkloristic events and a religious event during which we stay with our family and celebrate ancestors. It goes along during the first and second day of November. We also have Christmas holiday and Easter. During Easter, which reminds resurrection of Jesus Christ, we stay with our parents, eating together and making traditional food. We celebrate Easter to remember the last day of Jesus Christ. Especially from the last dinner to his crucifixion. Saturday was the day he resurrected, so we usually eat lump and other sweet traditional food. On this day, some people replay the last moments of Jesus Christ in the street, so they get dressed like him.
Geronime : No, we do not have any kind of Thanksgiving. Since we are really close with our family, we do not need any special day to gather with them. It is just like Chuseok everyday. But we have religion-based celebration such as Christmas for Christian or Tabaski (Ramadhan) for Muslims when we gather with our family and celebrate the holiday together.
Q. What did you do during this Chuseok holiday period?
Lamia : I went to the DMZ tour with other exchange students from Dongguk University. We had a great time together, having a walk at Dootayeon and taking beautiful pictures. We also visited the 4th Tunnel, made by North Korea to invade the south. I was satisfied with the experiences of the tour, and thought that everyone should visit this place. Accordingly, on the weekend, I studied about the Korean War and Korean history to learn more about it.
Mariah : I went to Gwangju to visit one of my friends. We went to the flower garden and an amusement park in Suncheon. Gwangju was much smaller city compared to Seoul. As Gwangju only has subway line one, we had to take a bus to go anywhere. Despite this inconvenience, it was a great experience to stay with my Korean friend and her family to celebrate Chuseok.
Silvia : During Chuseok I visited the DMZ with exchange students from several universities. My favorite activities were making rice cakes such as songpyeon and trying on traditional Korean dresses, called hanbok. Before coming back to Seoul, we rode a water bicycle on the lake, which made me bit tired, but it was exciting. I also went to Everland and visited the zoo. I saw pandas for the first time of my life! I also tried a huge roller coaster. It was a joyful holiday.
Geronime : I spent most of my holiday to rest and study at home. But I also went to Thanksgiving Festival with my friends. In the festival, we could experience Korean traditional Thanksgiving. There were many booths from different countries where we could try their traditional food. Also, the concert and singing contest were held in the festival. I think I spent my holiday enjoyable while both resting and playing.
Many of other countries seem to have similar celebration to Chuseok, like celebrating the holiday with some traditional activities and spending time with their family. Chuseok can be a chance for everyone to remind themselves to be grateful for their lives and to spend time with people they cherish the most. Even though some of the international students do not really know about Chuseok and its traditions, they still appreciated this long-term holiday as a chance to explore Korea, to rest or to study before mid-term exams.
Alexia Muller, Amelia Yolanda firstname.lastname@example.org
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