Monday, September 12, 2011

Korean Thanksgiving: Chuseok

Chuseok (추석) is by far the biggest and most important holiday in Korea. It is a time when family members from near and far come together to share food and stories and to give thanks to their ancestors for the abundant harvest. (source)
While America was finishing up its 9-11 memorials, people in Korea were waking up to celebrate Korean Thanksgiving, or Chuseok (추석). I decided to spend my Chuseok at The Seoul National Cemetery--the cemetery dedicated to Korean veterans, including those who fought in the Korean independence movement, Korean War, and the Vietnam War-- hoping to witness some of the ancestor rituals that allegedly took place on this holiday. I was not disappointed. The cemetery was packed with picnicking families paying their respects with flowers, food, drink, incense, song, and ritual bowing. 

I was struck with how un-somber the whole event seemed. It felt much more like a very joyous family get-together, with children laughing and running around, than mourning. There was no hush over the proceedings, in the nicest of ways.

Below are some of the things I saw in photo and video form; Click on images to see larger versions.

There were also two small museums dedicated to independence fighters and veterans, and detailing the abuses of the Japanese and the many attacks of the North Koreans.

After the cemetery, I took a trip down to Namsan Hanok Folk Village, per my itinerary. It was completely packed with families, but still fun. 

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