Monday, October 1, 2012

KOREAN CULTURE: Korean Thanksgiving Day (2)

Hangawi Food & Other Traditions (한가위 음식과  전통들)

너른 들판 오곡백과 거둬 들여서
Neoreun deulpan ogokbaekgwa geodwo deuryeoseo
We harvest five grains and a hundred fruits,
(=We harvest many types of grains and fruits)
햅쌀 찧어 솔잎 깔고 송편 만들어
Haepssal jji-eo sollip ggalgo songpyeon mandeureo
Pound new crop rice into flour,
make stuffed rice cakes, steam them on the pine needles
조상님께  먼저 감사드려요.
Josangnimgge maen meonjeo gamsadeuryeoyo.
And give thanks to our ancestors the first thing.

멥쌀가루 곱게 쳐서 익반죽하여
Mepssalgaru gopge chyeoseo Ikbanjukhayeo
Let’s sift rice flour finely, knead it with hot water
달빛아래 모여 앉아 송편을 빚자.
Dalbidarae moyeo anja songpyeoneul bitja.
And make stuffed rice cakes gathered together under the moonlight.
엄마 하나 하나별님도 하나.
Eomma hana, na hana, byeolnimdo hana.
Mommy makes one, I make one, and the star makes one.

-Excerpt from Ddeokjanchi (떡잔치, “Rice Cake Feast”),
a children's book written by Kang Inhee (1995)
Translated by ONSEMIRO

Illustrations from Ddeokjanchi (떡잔치, “Rice Cake Feast”),
a children's book written by Kang Inhee (1995)

On Korean Thanksgiving Eve, me and my brother and sister used to sit around the dinner table, though not under the moonlight as you just read above, to make Songpyeon (송편). (The word song (()) means “pine tree” and pyeon () derives from byeong ((), "rice cake") hence it literally translates to “Pine Tree Rice Cakes.”) Why the name Songpyeon? For the Korean pine tree rice cakes are half-moon shaped, stuffed with sugared sesame seeds, salted & steamed beans, or chestnut filling, and steamed over a layer of “pine needles” to add flavor and fragrance to them. Do you remember this famous quote from the movie "Forrest Gump"?: "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." The same is true for songpyeons ‘cause you can hardly know what you're gonna get, either. Interestingly enough, songpyeons stuffed with sugared sesame seeds were my least favorite when I was little but those are my most favorite now.

By the way, my grandma and mom always told us when making songpyeons, “If you make pretty songpyeons, you will have pretty daughters when you marry.”  So we tried our best to make them in pretty shapes and I think mine came out looking lovely. Now, you may be wondering if I have pretty daughters, right? Well, I don’t. I have only one son; but my brother in Korea has very pretty daughters. 

A plateful of colorful Songpyeon
(from Seoul City official website)

As Ddeokguk (떡국, “rice cake soup”) is one of the signature Korean New Year’s Day (Seollal) dishes, Songpyeon stands for Korean Thanksgiving Day (Hangawi/Chuseok). In fact, most of the traditional Korean holidays have signature rice dishes mainly because rice (especially white rice) used to be hard to get in Korea, long, long time ago.  Commoners rarely had a chance to have even a single bowl of rice.  It was only for the royals and nobles.  Instead of rice, they had millet, buckwheat, corn, potatoes, or sweet potatoes in their bowls as staple foods.  Rice cakes were simply too fancy and luxurious for them to even dream of - most rice cakes are sweet, beautiful, magnificent, and served as desserts - as cakes, pastries, and tarts are served in Western countries - even though some are salted and served as a meal.  And to those ancient Koreans (and even to my parents’ generation or other war generations), rice cakes meant festivities and holidays.

The ancient Korean people of all ages, of all classes, and both sexes got up early on Thanksgiving Day Morning and got all dressed up in new clothes, hanbok, with new shoes and new accessories, which are called Hangawibim (한가위빔) or Chuseokbim (추석빔).  (Click and go to number 6 for more details about Hanbok.) And they (and most of the modern Korean people) gave(still give) thanks to their deceased ancestor(s) the first thing on Thanksgiving Day Morning by offering them Jesasang (제사상), a table spread with food and drink made with freshly harvested grains and fruits including songpyeons (made with new crop rice).  (Click and go to number 5 for more details about Jesa (memorial services for the deceased ancestor(s)) and Jesasang.)  After the service, they went(go) to their ancestors’ graves to mow/trim the grass and tidy up the site, which is called Beolcho (벌초(伐草)).  

Seo Inguk (singer/actor) and Jung Eunji 
(singer("A-Pink")/actress) pose together for Sports Seoul 
wearing Hangawibim/Chuseokbim (Hanbok).

People also play such folk games as Ssireum (씨름, “Korean Folk Wrestling”), Ganggangsullae (강강술래), Neolddwigi (널뛰기, “See-Saw Jumping”), Nong-ak Nori (농악놀이, “Festival of the Farmers”), and of course Gilssam Nori (길쌈놀이, “Festival of the Weavers”) on Korean Thanksgiving Day. Let's first watch Seo Inguk winning the celebrity water Ssireum contest. (Please note that the authentic way to play Ssireum is on the sand.):

And here are the basic moves/elements of Ganggangsullae and the Bibimbap commercial produced by MBC's Infinity Challenge using the Ganggangsullae moves/concepts.

And watch Neolddwigi, Nong-ak Nori, and Gilssam Nori in a row:

Related Posts:
KOREAN CULTURE: Korean Thanksgiving Day (1)
Recipe: Pine Needle-Scented Rice Cakes (Songpyeon)

My Other Posts about Korean Culture & Holidays:
Korean New Year (Seollal) : (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
The First Full Moon Festival (Daeboreum): (1) (2) (3) (4)

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