Welcome to Chuseok! October 7th, 2009
By Jon Walsh
Senior Press Officer
Kia Motors UK
What? Well, if you don’t have Korean friends or don’t live in Korea, then you might have missed this one. But for Koreans, Chuseok is one of the most important festivals of the year – the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving.
Traditionally, it is a three day holiday and the dates vary as it is judged by the lunar calendar – it is always on the fifteenth day of the 8th lunar month. This year it is 2 – 4 October.
Chuseok gives a welcome break to Korean workers with a nice three day holiday to spend with loved ones. But not this year, as it falls on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so only one day off work is allowed. While some years are more fortunate than others, some companies are also more generous than others and have added an additional day or two for their employees (like at Kia HQ!) for this year’s holiday season.
For Korean ex-pats, like my colleagues in the UK, Chuseok is a time of mixed feelings. Those working here without their families yearn to be at home in Korea. For those with families in the UK, it is a warmer celebration and friends are invited, so they are not alone.
Chuseok perfectly reflects the importance of the family unit in Korean life. Family comes first and, as part of the celebrations, respect is paid to ancestors that have passed on through traditional rituals. Gifts are exchanged between the family and close work colleagues. Food plays an important part in Korean life and Chuseok is no different, with special meals prepared for the celebration. Song-pyeon is a tasty pine flavoured rice cake associated with Chuseok – well worth asking your Korean colleagues if you can try some!
Travelling around some parts of Seoul is a challenge at the best of times, but at Chuseok it can be a major headache! Flights and trains are booked months in advance and the roads fill up as record numbers of sons, daughters, fathers and mothers drive home to be with the family.
For some foreigners, Korean society can often be seen as a difficult culture to understand – one focused on business, honor and process. But just scratch beneath the surface and you will find a culture that has the family unit at the centre of its very being. Chuseok celebrations show that more clearly than anything.
If you have Korean friends around you this Chuseok, you can greet them over the holiday period by saying ‘Chuseok jal ji nae sae yo’.
※ Editor’s note: If you want to learn more about ‘Chuseok’, please click this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuseok