Nowadays, the three most-celebrated holidays in Korea are: the New Year, Dano, and Chuseok. Also known as 'Hangawi,’ Chuseok falls on the 15th of August according to the lunar calendar and is, without a doubt, the nation’s most important holiday. Although Chuseok itself is only one day, the holiday period spans that day before and after Chuseok, making for 3 consecutive days of festivities.
During Chuseok, people nationwide flee the city in order to return back to their family’s hometowns for the holiday (traditionally to visit relatives on their paternal side). With an amazing 75% of the population on the road during this mass exodus, highways and roads throughout the country are extremely congested. Since train and bus tickets are sold out a least a month in advance, careful planning is an absolute must if you’re planning to go anywhere during the holiday period.
Another aspect of the pre-holiday rush is the buying of the customary gifts. Gift boxes of meat, fish, fruit, spam, tuna, and health food are on display at department stores, convenience stores, and supermarkets. Others go for the more convenient option of gift certificates, available at various department stores. Needless to say, the nation’s postal service, private home delivery services, and gift delivery centers face one of their busiest seasons of the year during the Chuseok holiday.
Early on Chuseok morning, the family gathers together to perform the traditional ancestral rites. A feast of traditional Korean foods is prepared for the memorial service, after which everyone enjoys the festive meal and exchanges gifts.
Recently some of the traditional customs have been modified. Families may order food from outside and conduct a simplified memorial ritual, which allows people to have more free time during the holiday. Some people use the extra time to travel with families or friends or attend cultural or leisure activities. Also, given the high congestion on roads leading out from the Metropolitan area to other regions, an increasing number of parents opt to visit their children in Seoul, in what is known as the “reverse exodus.” Keep reading to learn more about the Chuseok scene in modern-day Korea!