Chu’seok is a major harvest festival and a three-day holiday in Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. As a celebration of the good harvest, Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of traditional Korean food.
In modern South Korea, on Chu’seok there is a mass exodus of Koreans who return to their hometowns to pay respects to the spirits of their ancestors. People perform ancestral worship rituals early in the morning. They often visit the tombs of their immediate ancestors to trim plants and clean the area around the tomb as well as offer food, drink and crops. Harvest crops are attributed to the blessing of ancestors.
One of the major foods prepared and eaten during the Chu’seok holiday is songpyeon, a crescent-shaped rice cake steamed pine needles. Other dishes commonly prepared are japchae, bulgogi and fruits.
“Chu’seok, the Harvest Day, is bigger than Christmas or perhaps even New Year’s Day with gift-giving, going back home to pay respect and honor our elders. Nearly all commerce comes to a stop. Traffic is light in Seoul this day of the year. Those of us Koreans who are blessed to be living in the U.S. get to celebrate the best of both worlds by celebrating Chu’seok with rice cakes and Thanksgiving Day with turkey and stuffing.” — Cindy Ryu, mayor of Shoreline
“Um, I actually don’t know what you are talking about. Hold on a minute?” (He goes off to ask a family member about Chu’seok.) “I just asked my cousin. Yeah, our family doesn’t celebrate that holiday.” — Joe Kim
“My parents celebrated Chu’seok at church this year. I didn’t celebrate it because first of all, no one told me about it until later that day. I don’t keep track. I should. But I’m sure they had rice cakes. You know that they don’t make turkey for ‘Korean Thanksgiving,’ right?” — Eun Oh
Eid al-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr
In 2008, Eid al-Adha begins on Dec. 8 and will last for three days. During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham’s trials by slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel or goat.
By saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, Muslims are reminded that life is sacred.
The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given to friends and one-third is donated to the poor. The act symbolizes a willingness to give up one’s own bounties in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need.
Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the month of Ramadan. “Fitr” means to break, and it signifies the breaking of the fasting period and of all evil habits. It is a show of joy at attaining spiritual prosperity.
“We have two Muslim holidays. We celebrate Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha is another Islamic holiday. Both of them have feastings. It’s like a family day. You buy little kiddies presents and candy. The second is when everyone — uh — slaughters a sheep. Everyone does it to remember when God told Abraham to slaughter a sheep instead of sacrificing his son.” — Malik Bawwab
Lumpia for dinner
“We eat lumpia because it is a Filipino staple food, basically a comfort food. And it’s always good for parties like on Thanksgiving!” — Lyndon Dacuan
“In my house, we rarely do turkey. We cook what we know: baked chicken, pansit, lumpia and, of course, rice. Mashed potatoes, stuffing and veggies do not exist.” — Maridel Zapanta
“Oh my gosh, you know what’s funny? We’re Chinese but my mom always makes lumpia every year for Thanksgiving with a recipe her Filipina coworker gave her.” — Betty Wang
“In my family, lumpia and pansit are just as common as turkey and mashed potatoes. In my house, however, since I’m a vegetarian, I prepare vegan-friendly side dishes, chiefly for myself, but I’ve invited other family members to have some. This year, I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and I’m making vegan Filipino food, so we’ll see how this experiment pans out.” — Ryan Pangilinan
“For Thanksgiving, my aunts and my uncles are all coming to my house. It’s pretty much typical turkey, that stuff. There are some Korean side dishes that my mom makes though. That’s the normal diet of what we eat. It’s sort of a given that we, as Koreans, eat it. There will be kimchee for sure! Probably like fish and beans. They’re just Korean side dishes; they don’t have names, but they are veggies. Probably an anchovy side. And a spinach side. They’re marinated in certain sauces and seasonings.” — Eun Oh
“For my family, Thanksgiving is not a huge thing, and we don’t usually eat turkey. Instead, we eat pho and delicious Vietnamese food. Remember that our parents grew up from a traditional culture, so we are affected by it.” — Kevin Q. Nguyen
“We have mashed potatoes and gravy, eggrolls, some rice and noodles. We have Vietnamese food because my family makes it. So I eat it.” — Juliet Le
“Our Thanksgiving meal is all Asian food pretty much. It’s because my family doesn’t really like American food. Well, some of them like it, but most of the older relatives don’t. We have noodles. Instead of having turkey, we have chicken. Some people think that turkey is kind of sweet. It’s a big gathering. Everyone comes over.” — Alexa Do
“My Vietnamese American family likes to eat duck and crispy chicken from the Chinese BBQ restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving Day. We also like to eat fried vegetarian spring rolls since some family members are non-meat eaters.” — Dawn-Thanh Nguyen
Dia de Accion de Gracias
“The Thanksgiving day in Mexico is not authentic … We stole it from the U.S. It’s called Dia de Accion de Gracias, which means ‘Thanksgiving Day,’ or Dia del Pavo Real, which means ‘Turkey Day.’ — Javier Rico
“We usually cook pozole, a pork stew with hominy in a red broth that’s semi-spicy. It’s a good dish because it’s usually cooked in a ginormous pot and feeds a lot of people. It’s best served while it’s still boiling so the only perfect time to cook it is during winter. And then there’s the turkey and other American stuff. It’s not really considered Mexican … but we do barbeque our turkey, the entire thing … inside a grill. The redskin potatoes are sautéed with green peppers and maybe three or four jalapeños. Oh, and dessert! Always something Mexican and something American. Apple pie and buñuelos. — Javier Rico
Not a fan of turkey?
Save room for ethnic foods on the table
“We almost always have the traditional ‘American’ Thanksgiving food such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. We spent one Thanksgiving Day on the road and ate both lunch and dinner at Denny’s, an American eatery. We also have kimchee — because it is such a perfect food: hot yet refreshing, helps digestion, keeps well and is very delicious. That one Thanksgiving Day at Denny’s, we truly missed our kimchee.” — Cindy Ryu, mayor of Shoreline
“This is a picture of Thanksgiving from last year. I cooked the meal all by myself, too! Turkey, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, some green bean casserole thing and corn!” — Nina Huang
“We just eat turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, that kind of stuff. Although I do prefer that my mom cooks Cornish game hens instead of turkey because I don’t like turkey. We pretty much have a Western Thanksgiving. We don’t really eat Arab food on that day. We put a movie on, and everyone hangs out. It’s a good family thing.” — Malik Bawwab
“We do the turkey and the mashed potatoes and the cranberry sauce and especially the pumpkin pie, but since mostly everyone who shows up at our house is Indian, we do rice, occasionally a biryani if my father can be coerced into helping, a couple of curries — fish and chicken — lots of Indian-style vegetables. Someone will usually bring an Indian dessert, like sweets, ras malai or raisum, to complement the pie, which is always yum! It’s not mandated that we have to eat these, but for my family and for most of our family friends, it’s not a meal if there’s not rice. And rice requires a curry. And curry requires a vegetable — it kind of grows. I know for my father, it’s important because of how he grew up — in real, uncushioned poverty. Rice is a big deal to him, every day. Thanksgiving means more to him than to my mother or her family members who come, because they never quite went through what he did.” — Dee Mandiyan
“I’m grateful for my mother. She is battling cancer, and it’s from her battle that I am able to be inspired to continue my education in medicine.” — Kevin Zhang, medical student
“I am grateful for Sen. Fleming. He took a chance on me and got me into politics. He instilled in me the value of giving back, knowing where we come from. You do things because they’re right, whether you get recognition or not.” — Nate Miles, director of Community Relations for Eli Lilly & Co. and former aide for Sen. George Fleming
“I am thankful for the Dalai Lama. He has inspired millions of people around the world with his message of peace and compassion. He has devoted his life to humanitarian work and saving the Tibetan culture. It inspires me to help to change the world with community service and involvement.” — Minh-Duc Nguyen
“I am grateful for the opportunity the Executive Development Institute program (EDI) gave me to learn how to respect my cultural past while I look towards the future. Being third generation Japanese American, I was taught many things from my grandmother who emigrated from Japan. Things I learned included Japanese customs and proper etiquette by Asian standards. Through EDI, I learned how to value and integrate my Asian culture into today’s business environment.” — Mark Kawabata
“This year I am thankful for my 11-month-old niece Raigan Ai-Van Mao, who has taught me a great deal. Because of her, I have a better understanding of how important the future is. I more clearly see the value in conserving the environment and bettering the world today as a way to create a healthier future for the children of tomorrow. Her mere presence has brought together family and friends. Raigan has reminded me to be grateful for all the little things in life. As she grows, I observe the vast amount of joy she finds in learning to do things such as walk, talk and clap, and I remember to be appreciative of the details in life that are sometimes taken for granted.” — Jacklyn Tran
“I am grateful for two strangers that I met during a boring work shift. The first is a man who worked as an usher at a theater while I was a retail associate. He was an open and honest man, who was content with the work in his life. He saw the world as beautiful and full of potential. He opened my eyes to my parent’s sacrifice — they moved here because it was the only option, the only place of opportunity they could go, so that I could go anywhere in the world. I am grateful to another man, a law student, who once felt lost and told me how he got out: “I didn’t want to be an 80-year-old, sitting on a rocking chair, wondering what I want to do with my life.” He painted a vision that was possible if I didn’t get moving. Two strangers inspired me to get up off my butt and go back to school. Now, I’m finishing off my second to last semester. … God, that was so cheesy. It just came out!” — Maridel Zapanta
“One person who I’ve found to be particularly inspiring is my old friend and co-worker, Drea, who owns the Sneaker in Ballard. She’s not that much older than me, and when she told me that she was opening the store a few years ago, I had a chance to take a look at my life and reassess my goals. After that, I wrote my first novel and I’m working on my second, so without her, I’d probably still be doing some rather dull work for an unnamed digital media firm.” — Ryan Pangilinan
“I’m grateful to those who diligently make a difference in our society. Personally, I’m grateful to learn great things about (architect) Frank Lloyd Wright. His work and his character are very inspiring. As a student, I’m grateful to learn from the best so that one day I can design greener homes.” — Kevin Q. Nguyen, studying architecture at WSU
“I’m thankful for a hopeful year ahead. Though the economy has been tough on many, I think better days are coming. I’m especially grateful for the people in my life — family, good friends and supportive peers—for new experiences, opened doors and lessons learned, assets that money can’t buy.” — Joann Natalia Aquino, public relations and marketing manager of Wing Luke Asian Museum
“I was gonna say I’m grateful for Obama, but I feel like that’s way too freaking cliche especially at this time. Wait, don’t put that in!” — Betty Wang
“I am thankful for my boss, Nina Odell. I’ve not known another woman like her. She inspires me to do more, to push myself to be greater than I ever thought of trying to be. Whether she is in my life for only a few more months or many more years, I will always be thankful for her tutelage, her graciousness and for believing in me.” — Pai-Ling Chu, Puget Sound Energy