Chuseok is one of the biggest and most important holidays in Korea. It is compared to Thanksgiving back home in the States. Families here usually spend this holiday together like back home and it is one of the big travel days in Korea because many Koreans visit their hometowns. Trains and many bus tickets sell out quickly, because of this so planning early to go anyplace is key. During Chuseok you will also see a lot of traditional aspects of the Korean culture showcased too. The Meaning of Chuseok (Hangawi):
Chuseok is one of Korea’s three major holidays, along with Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) and Dano (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month). Chuseok is also referred to as Hangawi (한가위). Han means “big” and gawi means “the ides of the 8th lunar month or autumn.” According to the lunar calendar, the full harvest moon appears on the 15th day of the eight month. (http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=811650)
Here is a quick summary of what happens traditionally on Chuseok for those that are curious:
Families hold memorial services for their ancestors and they clean the grave sites.
Traditional Korean wrestling called Ssireum is held on Chuseok and is pretty entertaining, I’ve only seen this on TV during Chuseok.
You will see Koreans of all ages wearing Hanbok the traditional Korean dress.
Making Songpyeon is also traditional for families to do on Chuseok, it’s a type of rice cake eaten for Chuseok.
When Chuseok rolled around in September 2015 I had only been here a few weeks and hadn’t really had time to plan anything. With some research and a good suggestion from a friend at work, my friends and I decided to head for Muuido Island. Muuido is a small island just off of Incheon where I live. It’s about 1.5-2 hours from where I live if you time everything right. We had a four day weekend and decided that Muuido for a night or two would be great.
Saturday rolled around and we were off, first, we took a train to Dong-Incheon Station, from there we took a bus, a ferry and another bus. Once we got off the first bus we walked through a small seaside town towards to the ferry to Muuido, but it’s mostly just restaurants. As we were walking to catch the ferry on the one lane road a Korean man pulled over and was like get in, get in. He drove us to the ferry because little did we know that we were about to miss the last one of the day. We rode the short 5-minute ferry ride and then caught another bus to Hanagae Beach. When we arrived at the beach it was perfect!
We rented a little hut with heated floors right on the beach and arrived just in time to see one of the most beautiful sunsets going down. The tide was low and you could walk out towards the sea for miles it seemed . The light reflected in the pools of water and created elegant silhouettes. We enjoyed the night of taking in the landscape and nice weather by the sea.
The next day we went on a nice little hike overlooking the beach. After that, we enjoyed the beach and some zip lining. It’s a fun place to relax but still be active. We had such a good time that we decided to stay another night. We had a nice Korean BBQ dinner with soju on the beach that night and made friends with some British guys. We set off fireworks, enjoyed music and sat by a campfire. The next day we headed home! It was a great little getaway for my first Chuseok holiday in Korea.