One of the most significant Korean holidays is Chuseok. Similar in some ways to our American Thanksgiving, it falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar annually (September 22nd this year). The harvest festival is a three-day event, with celebrations the day before and the day after the official date. Most Koreans return home to spend time with their families, pay respect to their ancestors and celebrate the harvest season. Women often prepare traditional foods, including songpyeon, a crescent shaped rice cake filled with sweet bean paste and steamed with pine needles. Fancy gift sets and presents are often distributed to friends and family.
For the last month, Ryan and I have noticed increasing displays of colorful fruit baskets, beauty sets, even gift boxes filled with nothing but SPAM. We were lucky enough to receive small gifts from our director and a few students, including baked goods, gift cards and socks for the holiday. Luckily, we didn't receive any canned meat.
In anticipation of Chuseok last Friday, all of our kindergarten kids dressed in traditional Korean hanboks. I don’t think they could have been any cuter!
Ryan and I also dressed up, borrowing the traditional attire from co-workers.
Once we were dressed, students and teachers made songpyeon together.
A small piece of dough enveloped sweet bean paste (better than it sounds), then the cake was set on a tray to await steaming.
Once the dough was gone, the students were more than happy to polish off the leftover filling.
After the rice cakes had been made, we all headed to the gym for traditional Korean wrestling.
The students gathered facing a mat in the center of the room.
Two by two the competitors bowed and sat face to face on the floor.
Then they stood, grasping their opponent’s waist, waiting to be tapped by the “referee.” Once they were tapped, it was go time. Ryan and I couldn’t believe that in their formal attire, they were clinging to each other and rolling around on mats.
The girls somehow still managed to look elegant and adorable.
For some reason the boys weren’t quite as graceful….
At least they were entertaining! And did I mention, adorable?