By Christina “ICON” Shin, Staff Writer
The Moon Festival is celebrated mainly in Asia. The celebration has different names, such as Mid-Autumn Festival, Harvest Festival or Lunar Festival. In South Korea, it’s called Chuseok or Hangawi. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar, and often referred to as the Korean Thanksgiving. Hangawi means “big feast” and comes from the Silla dynasty from the Three Kingdoms Era.
Hangawi is often compared to the traditional American Thanksgiving because it brings families together to celebrate and be thankful. The holiday lasts three days and is a time when people from large cities travel to visit their families and pay respects to their ancestors. The ritual called charae takes place during this time. Charae may also be held on Lunar New Year.
Preparations for this holiday are far from easy and takes attention to detail. The folding screen, or byung poong, needs to be placed in the north and south end of the table. Specific foods are placed in certain positions. After the table is set, family members take turns bowing in gratitude to their ancestors.
Hangawi is all about food! One of the main foods prepared and eaten is songpyeon, a Korean traditional rice cake that is half-moon-shaped tinted with various colors. Songpyeon means bright future. The rice cake are stuffed with sesame seeds, black beans, mung beans, cinnamon, pine nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, jujubes, and honey. The secret ingredient to make the most delicious songpyeon is pine needles. The pine needles are laid out on the bottom of the steamer and the songpyeon is scattered on top. The pine needles contribute to the songpyeon aromatic fragrance.
Similar to associating football with American Thanksgiving, wrestling or ssireum is linked with Korean Thanksgiving. Ssireum dates back five thousand years to the Goguryeo dynasty era.
According to Wikipedia, the wresting ritual involves “two men wrestle with each other while holding tight to their opponent’s satba, red and blue band. A player loses when his upper body touches the ground.” The winner is then crowned Cheonha Jangsa, which means “the most powerful.” Today, the ritual is televised during the annual K-Pop Idols Olympics.
These events are only a few of the experiences during Hangawi, and you don’t have to go all the way to Korea to to take part in this holiday. Many cities in the United States celebrate festivals hosted by the Korean community. Next year, Hangawi will be held Oct. 4. Mark your calendars!
- Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons