Although there are many Korean holidays, Chuseok, remains one of the most widely celebrated festivals throughout the year. Chuseok celebrates the autumn harvest and honors elderly family members, and is considered by many as a Korean Thanksgiving Day.
To this day, Koreans leave Seoul for the 3-day long celebrations and return to their hometowns to visit their parents and other relatives. They do this spend time together while wishing their family wellness and joy during the full moon.
What Is the Meaning of Chuseok?
Chuseok is a Thanksgiving celebration where Koreans bring gifts to their parents and honor their ancestors. During Chuseok, Korean people leave the city where they work —usually Seoul— to go back to their home town.
Traditionally, they visited their parents’ home wearing elaborate customary clothes, called Hanbok, and to this day, more traditional families still wear these clothes. Koreans return home bearing presents such as ginseng, beef, fish, fruits, and oil —which symbolizes a healthy flow in work and life—.
The eldest son or daughter of a Korean household sets the table and prepares a huge meal comprised of many traditional Korean dishes to serve their elders. Koreans bow to honor their ancestors and bid them healthy, prosperous lives, before sitting down to share this special meal.
When is Chuseok?
This Korean 3-day Thanksgiving holiday falls in autumn, probably the best time of the year to visit South Korea, due to its mild weather, and vibrant colors.
Chuseok date is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. This means that Chuseok 2019 is celebrated on Friday, September 13th, 2019.
This celebration lasts 3 days, so although Chuseok is commemorated on the 13th, the day before and the day after are also regarded as public holidays in South Korea.
Why Do Koreans Celebrate Chuseok?
A modern-day Korean Chuseok custom is that of gift-giving. Locals offer presents to their relatives —as they always have— but younger generations also do so to friends and business acquaintances, as well. Chuseok offers Koreans an opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation not only to family members but to others around them.
Some traditional Chuseok gift ideas include high-quality cuts of beef, fresh fish or fruit. If you are visiting South Korea around Korean Thanksgiving, you will notice that supermarkets and department stores begin to offer gift sets —made up of everything from Korean snacks to useful household and personal items— right before these dates.
Traveling Around Korea During Chuseok
If you are planning on visiting South Korea in the autumn, make sure to check whether your travel dates coincide with Chuseok. Traveling on these dates will give you a unique opportunity to taste traditional foods prepared especially for this celebration.
If you are staying in Seoul and leaving to visit other parts of South Korea around those dates, take into account that all the locals leaving the city —and returning after the holidays— cause one of the biggest traffic jams of the year.
You may want to stay in Seoul after others have left and take advantage of the city’s peace and quiet. Another option would be to visit other parts of South Korea before or after the celebration is over, since booking flights, or bus or train tickets can be truly challenging.
Since most locals leave Seoul to visit their families in their hometowns, you will practically have Seoul’s beautiful monuments all to yourself. Imagine taking pictures of South Korea’s beautiful landscapes without its year-round crowds?
What to Eat in Korea During Chuseok?
During Chuseok, Korean women prepared an ancestral memorial ceremony called Charye. The tradition includes filling a table with food such as freshly harvested rice and fruit.
Locals celebrate Chuseok by preparing special dishes, especially a kind of rice cake called Songpyeon. This delicacy is made with finely ground new rice shaped into small rounds and filled with nuts, sesame seeds, or beans. Songpyon are steamed over layers of pine needles, filling Korean’s homes with a delicious fragrance.
If you are spending time in South Korea during Chuseok, make sure to try the following traditional foods made especially for this celebration:
- Songpyeon rice cakes filled with seeds, nuts, or beans.
- Jeon Korean pancakes filled with kimchi, zucchini, meat, shrimps, mushrooms or fish.
- Korean pears
Where Can I Go in Seoul During Chuseok?
If you are traveling to Seoul with a South Korean visa and wondering where to go during Chuseok, make sure to enjoy the unique opportunity to visit all these beautiful places during your stay:
- Gyeongbokgung Palace boasts a Bukchon Lion Play and tight rope walking
- Deoksugung Palace has a musical festival and traditional dances
- Seoul Museum of History outs on a show with professional traditional dancers and musicians performing all day long throughout the Chuseok holiday
- The National Folk Museum holds workshops where visitors can learn a variety of traditional crafts like Hanji (Korean traditional paper), making inkstones, fans and handkerchiefs
- Tourists can also try on some typical Hanbok clothing while learning how to tie a traditional Korean bow properly.
- Coex, Myeongdong, and Itaewon are shopping malls that remain open during Chuseok
- Everlandand and Lotteworld are amusement parks with folk festivals open to the public during the Korean Thanksgiving holidays
Dreaming of enjoying South Korea in the fall and all that Chuseok has to offer? Make sure to come back to this page often in order to find out whether you are eligible to apply for Korean online visa. While official details have not yet been finalized, this website will be updated as soon as the option to save time by applying online for a Korea ETA is made available.