National Customs for Chusok

Old pictures show that Chusok (the 15th day of the eighth month by the lunar calendar) in Korea was a traditional holiday of the nation.

Chusok, which has been celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month by the lunar calendar, was one of the largest holidays among folk holidays.

On the day the Korean people showed their sincerity for late forefathers after having a bumper harvest.

“Historically, Chusok has been celebrated on a large scale, calling it the “day of Kabe” in the period of the Three Kingdoms,” said Im Sung Jin, section chief of the Academy of Social Sciences.

There was a custom of visiting their forefathers’ graves on the day of Chusok.

And a reception was arranged and music was played at the royal palace that day and there were martial arts games of government officials. Horses or cloths were awarded to excellent players as prize.

There is also a story that Chusok was related with a handweaving contest in the period of the Three Kingdoms.

Women were divided into two teams in the royal palace during the Three Kingdoms and the teams each of which was led by a royal princess had a handweaving game from early morning to late at night every day from July 16 to August 15 by the lunar calendar.

At that time, the defeated side prepared foods to serve the winning side and they played merrily dancing and singing songs. It was called kabe.

Kabe was later called Kawi or Hangawi, and Kawi means the middle of autumn and Hangawi indicates a big holiday of autumn.

Chusok was fixed as a big traditional holiday of the Korean nation in the long historical course passing through the periods of Palhae (698-926), Koryo (918-1392) and the feudal Joson dynasty (1392-1910).

The first ceremony of the Chusok holiday was to look round forefathers’ tombs.

People dressed themselves smartly in holiday attire and climbed mountains with offerings to evenly cut off weeds or lawns on grave mounds and in their vicinity that had grown thick throughout summer.

And they filled up hollowed places and covered graves with earth.

They arranged offerings made of new crops of the year on the stone table in front of graves, poured liquor and bowed down on their knees. The bows were made in the order of uncle, direct descendants and other near relations of the dead.

After the memorial service was over, they had foods while sharing the lifetime stories about their forefathers and other life history.

On Chusok, they also played various folk games.

Folk games included women’s swinging and men’s wrestling (ssirum). The swinging and wrestling games were organized on a large scale with town or village as a unit for prize of ox or other things.

On the evening of Chusok, the moon is unusually bright.

People used to spread straw mats in the hills at the back of their houses or in their courtyards to recite poems and sing songs reflecting their dreams while looking at the moon or forecast their crop yields.

The custom of Chusok is being carried on even today.

A special passengers’ transport service is organized for those visiting graves and the Grand Bull Prize national ssirum contest is held.

Categories: Culture

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