The Koreas–Ganggangsullae

Chuseok (also known as “Hangawi” which means, in old Korean, “big middle”) is the Korean holiday of thanksgiving. The festival takes place around the 15th day of the 8th month of the Korean lunar calendar, which is some time around the start of autumn. Koreans take advantage of the three holiday to visit their ancestral hometowns, feast with their families (many eat traditional Korean dishes like songpyeon, a rice-cake stuffed with sweet fillings such as sesame seeds or honey and steamed upon pine needles) and visit the graves of their departed relatives.

While modern Koreans first and foremost view Chuseok as a moment to focus on their families, traditionally Koreans have also played folk games throughout Chuseok, like tug of war or ssireum wrestling, which involves grabbing your opponent’s fancypants. Korean women along the southwest coast also perform the ancient Ganggangsullae dance forming a circle under a full moon and dancing for hours, long into the night, replying a liberating “Ganggangsullae!” as the song leader sings about both the struggles and joys of life.

In class we’re going to celebrate Chuseok by contemplating our ancestors and dancing around and around and around.

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