Korean Chuseok 2022! Here’s Your Guide to Celebrating

Chuseok 2022 is on September 10! Check off the list for food, family, and fun.

What is Chuseok? Korean Chuseok (추석), also known as Hangawi, is one of the two main holidays on the peninsula, and it’s a very big deal. Considered Korean Thanksgiving, it is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar which generally comes during either September or October. Chuseok 2022 falls on September 10th (Saturday) but the general holiday will take place from September 9th to 12th (Friday to Monday).

The holiday originates from a mythological Buddhist folklore about a moon rabbit that promotes virtues of fertility, longevity, and harvest. Chuseok translates to “Autumn Eve” and it is a 3-day national holiday celebrated in both North and South Korea, as well as by Koreans around the world.

chuseok 2022

For Koreans, Chuseok is very important because it is one of the moments where they gather with family to honor their ancestors by visiting graves and performing a ceremony called charye. Traffic is a nightmare in Korea during Chuseok with the migration of millions of people traveling to hometowns for the rituals and festivities. If you live outside of Korea, consider yourself lucky to be able to celebrate hassle-free.

If there’s one thing you can always count on for both Chuseok and Seollal, the other major Korean holiday, it is the rising of a big round full moon. Seollal is the first full moon of the year, and Chuseok is the eighth.

Since the traditional holiday follows the lunar calendar, Chuseok dates are different year to year. As such, Chuseok will take place on September 29th in 2023, September 17th in 2024, and October 6th in 2025.

Feasting: What do Koreans eat on Chuseok?

Korean Chuseok is a festival that celebrates the beginning of the harvest and a lot of food and drink is prepared! It is celebrated throughout the world mainly with extensive family time, fun games, and of course, good, glorious food.

On the morning of Chuseok, family members will come together, traditionally at the home of the eldest son, a place called kun jip (literally translated as the Big House). Because of the large gathering and the great feasting that takes place, preparation for Chuseok used to be a weeks-long and labor-intensive undertaking for the kun myuneuri, or eldest daughter-in-law.

These days, the other family members often help with the preparations, and the workload is shared. Nevertheless, this is a holiday when Koreans look forward to feasting on all their favorite Chuseok foods such as songpyeon (half-moon rice cakes), jeon (Korean pancakes), grilled meats, and rice wine!

Korean Chuseok 2022
A variety of jeon, a traditional Korean Chuseok dish

Chuseok 2022 Top Foods

  • Songpyeon Tteok and other colorful rice cakes signifying a bright future
  • Different kinds of Jeon – Vegetable, Meat, Fish
  • Nameul (bellflower, bracken, spinach) – 3 different colors of vegetables from a root, stalk, and leaf signify prosperity
  • Japchae
  • Galbi Jjim with Daechu (Jujube) signifying a wish for more descendants
  • Nabak Kimchi
  • Whole Fish signifying spreading descendants
  • Radish Soup
  • Korean Pears signifying wisdom
  • Large Apples signifying love and peace within the family
  • Ggot Gam – Dried Persimmon
  • Traditional Honey Rice Cakes in five colors signify the five elements of the universe
  • Sikhye Sweet Rice Drink
  • Makgeolli Rice Wine

Honoring ancestors

Rituals to honor ancestors are an important aspect of Chuseok. Many Koreans visit the tombs of their family members during Chuseok to pay their respects and tidy up their graves. Traditionally, families would visit tomb sites on two different days– beolcho (벌초) and seongmyo (성묘). Beolcho refers to the grass-trimming ceremony that takes place the day before Chuseok, where families will go to clean up weeds and tidy the grass surrounding the tomb. On the day of Chuseok, families will go again to bow to their ancestors and symbolically lay out a table of food and drinks, otherwise known as seongmyo.

Alternatively, families may choose to conduct an ancestral ritual at home, also known as charye (차례). On Chuseok morning, families would set up an elaborate table with traditional foods arranged in a way that would invite the spirits into the home to enjoy the feast. While individual families may have their own traditions for setting the table for charye, there are general guidelines that have been traditionally followed.

  • 1st row: Utensils, cups, tteok 떡, guk 국 (soup).
  • 2nd row (left to right): Guksu 국수 (noodles), yukjeon 육전 (meat pancakes), sojeon 소전 (beef pancakes), eojeok 어적 (fish), and siluddeok 시루떡 (rice cakes).
  • 3rd row: Meat soup, beef soup, and fish soup.
  • 4th row: Po 포 (jerky), namul 나물 (seasoned vegetables), ganjang 간장 (soy sauce), nabak kimchi 나박김치 (kimchi), and sikhye 식혜 (sweet drink).
  • 5th row: Fruits and desserts (such as jujubes, chestnuts, pears, apples, and dried persimmons).

It is also typically accompanied with verbal prayer or bowing. These days, however, many modern Koreans (especially Christians) skip these rituals as it is seen as ancestor worship.

Korean Chuseok 2022
Traditional Chuseok table set for Charye (ancestor ritual)

What do Koreans wear for Chuseok?

Koreans love dressing up in the traditional hanbok to get in the mood for special occasions like Chuseok and Seollal. Some people even get the family pet involved in the festive dressing with adorable Korean dog hanboks and cat hanboks.

Korean Chuseok
Ginger Yang dressed up in hanbok

If you are interested in renting Hanbok for the Chuseok celebration, Etsy would be the perfect place for it.

What are some Chuseok 2022 gift-giving conventions?

Gift giving is an essential part of Korean Chuseok. You can’t fail to notice the giant Chuseok gift boxes when walking around the stores in September. These boxes are usually filled with anything from food to toiletries and are given as a gift around this time.

Chuseok gifts

Unlike the Christmas holidays, gifts at Chuseok are not given reciprocally. It is appropriate to give gifts during Chuseok if you are invited to someone’s house during this time, and it’s always a good idea to bring a present that can be shared throughout the house as opposed to individual gifts.

This is also a time when many people send gifts to clients and business associates. Of course, if there is someone you want who has helped you a lot during the year, this could be a good time to repay some of the favor by getting them a Chuseok gift.

This is a time when retailers will stock many gift items. If you live in Korea, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a gift to give during Korean Chuseok because most shops and supermarkets will have massive, clearly labeled gift sets that are suitable for Chuseok gifts.

As Chuseok celebrates the beginning of harvest, many of these gifts will be food-based and they will range from fruits and rice cakes to huge sets of Korean Beef or seafood, or even Spam!

Korean Chuseok
Spam gift sets at Lotte Department Store, Jamsil, Seoul, Joshua Hall for the Wall Street Journal

What kinds of games do Koreans play during Chuseok?

Go Stop (고스탑) – One of the favorite games to play when the Korean family is gathered is Go Stop! Go Stop is a fun fast-paced game played with small plastic cards called Hwatu (화투). The rules to this game are not simple and it may take at least a few rounds before you figure out how to play it but don’t be surprised if you get addicted! Many Korean Americans have fond memories of their parents and family members playing this game, and not just on holidays.

Here’s a great high-quality set of Hwatu cards that come with instructions and other extras:

Korean Chuseok

Check out this video tutorial and try this hard core Korean game for yourself this year!

Juldarigi (줄다리기) – Commonly known in Western countries as “tug-of-war”, juldarigi is another traditional folk game played during Chuseok. Large villages or provinces would historically come together to compete against each other in hopes of bringing about good luck for the year’s harvest. Rather than a thin rope, Korea’s version of tug-of-war typically uses an enormous hand-woven straw rope that require tens to even hundreds of people on each side. Korea’s juldarigi tradition is actually listed under UNESCO as an intangible heritage item!

Dangjin is a province in Korea that still holds annual juldarigi competitions on Chuseok

Korean villages traditionally celebrated with various entertainment such as Samoulnori (traditional percussion quartets) or Talchum (masked dances), Ganggangsullae (Korean circle dances), and Ssireum (Korean wrestling).

Korean Chuseok
Talchum dances

However you decide to celebrate this year, make it a Happy Chuseok!

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