Chuseok (Mid-Autumn) Celebrations
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Thanksgiving has always been a time of reflection and remembrance. Like W.H. Davies writes, the autumn holiday serves to allow people to take time to stand, stare, and take in the fullness of life from past to present.
As a Korean Cafe located in the center of NYC’s Koreatown, Grace Street enjoys taking part in the culture by celebrating Korea’s own Thanksgiving holiday, Chuseok. So let’s experience leisure together, as we “stand and stare” to recognize the importance of this significant holiday in Korean history.
All about the moon
Years ago, Korea’s society created its foundation by rooting itself in an agrarian culture: farming was a lifestyle, shaping stability and social values. So during the fullest harvest moon, the fifteenth day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar year, families and farmers feasted in celebration. Cross culturally, the Chinese-Autumn Festival still commemorates the end of fall’s harvest on the same days as Chuseok as well!
Even today during the Chuseok season, you’ll notice that the moon is much bigger, closer, and brighter compared to the rest of the year. Whatever you’re doing during those few days, know that the Koreans and Chinese in ancient history started a holiday of thanks under the largest moon of the year!
Much like a traditional American Thanksgiving, food cannot be forgotten. Koreans from the past and into the present enjoy Chuseok by eating Songpyeon. Songpyeons start off as a circle of rice cake to represent the full moon. Then the rice cake is filled with ingredients ranging from sesame seeds to other nuts and folded in half. Steamed and served on fragrant pine leaves, the rice cakes engage with all of your senses as you sniff the fresh pine, bite into the chewy rice cake, and taste the nutty sweetness on the inside.
Don’t forget the Thanks in Thanks(giving)
While we’re talking about songpyeon, let’s not forget the immense amount of other food involved in Chuseok’s traditional feast. Historically, songpyeon was served with tons of other dishes like fresh rice, skewers, Korean pancakes (jeon), and always topped off with rice liquor.
Formally called the charye ceremony, families would spread the various cuisines mentioned above as a way to thank and honor their ancestors. Some even go to the memorial grounds in memory of loved ones. The elegance and extraordinary feast serves to represent the great thought and thanks that the family feels in regards to the ancestors.
Because Grace Street sits right in the middle of KoreaTown, the cafe has easy access to an abundance of Chuseok’s traditional foods to celebrate. All kinds of kimbap are handmade at EMO Kimbap and various shops sell freshly made songpyeon all throughout the year. Our cafe loves to engage with the culture in its food, while also remembering to give thanks to all of our loved ones.
Enjoy this lunar new year with some of Chuseok’s most traditional dishes. Or if sesame filled rice cakes aren’t your favorite, at least take a peek at the biggest moon of the year! However you decide to celebrate Thanksgiving, whether it’s with a turkey and mashed potatoes or tons of dishes at ancestral ceremonies, Grace Street wishes you a happy holiday!