Korean Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving: Differences and Similarities

Family at Dinner for Korean Thanksgiving Chuseok

 

By: Isabelle Yang

추수감사절 is the Korean word for American Thanksgiving. 추석 is the Korean word for Korean Thanksgiving. What’s the difference between the two? Not a lot actually. Similar to American Thanksgiving, family members from near and far come together on this special holiday to share food and stories, giving thanks to their ancestors for the abundant harvest.

  • Dates
  • American Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the last Thursday of November. On the other hand,Chuseok is actually a three-day holiday in both North- and South Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar on the full moon.

  • History
  • American Thanksgiving traces its origins back to a 1621 celebration in present-day Massachusetts. It is considered the day in which Pilgrims gave thanks to God for safely bringing them to the New World (America). To contrast, Chuseok has quite a unique and different history. Chuseok also originated as a celebration of the harvests, but also as a way to thank ancestors for a successful harvest. From the little that we know, Chuseok traces its origins back to nearly 2,000 years ago. Silla’s third king, Yuri, began Chuseok as a competitive festival. According to popular legend, the women of the kingdom were divided into groups for a period of one month beginning on the 16th day of the 7th month and ending on the 14th day of the 8th month. During this period, each team wove as much cloth as they could. The team with the most cloth was declared the winner and was treated to a great feast of food and alcohol provided by the losing team.

  • Food
  • America - Turkey, Stuffing, Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin pie

    Korea -galbi jjim, songpyeon rice cakes, fried japchae sweet potato noodles and many banchan side dishes 

    galbijiim-braised-beef-short-rib

    Galbijjim (Braised Beef Short Ribs ...koreanbapsang.com)

    songpyeon-rice-cake

    fried-japchae-sweet-potato-noodles

    (Sweet potato starch noodles stir fried ...maangchi.com)


  • Family
  • In both the United States and Korea, families spend their respective national holidays with their families. While Americans usually spend time in their homes with family members, Koreans will usually go to the tombs of their immediate ancestors to pay their respects.

    chuseok-family-tradition

    (Chuseok: The Korean Thanksgiving — SweetandtastyTV)

  • Games
  • In America, families will usually watch American football games during Thanksgiving. It is also common for families to play various sports throughout the day. In Korea, people play a variety of folk games like tug of war, archery, and ssireum (a form of wrestling). These games are different depending on the region of Korea. 

    traditional-korean-wrestling

    (Ssireum – Traditional Korean Wrestlingantiquealive.com)


    Now that you know the key differences between Korean Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving, you may be wondering: so how do Korean Americans celebrate American Thanksgiving? Of course you’ll see some of the traditional American foods and activities in these Korean households, but you may also see traditional Korean rice cakes and braised short ribs next to your turkey and stuffing. It’s a beautiful blend of two cultures with fantastic food and a rich history.


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