Asian Harvest Festivals: Great Excuse to Eat Treats, Give Thanks!


Yoo In Na of ‘My Secret Hotel’ sends out her Chuseok greeting!

Ah yes, the colors of the leaves are changing and the long summer days are drawing to a close. Instead of feeling gloomy about the chilly months ahead, it’s time to celebrate autumn and the harvest moon. Learn about the traditions of Chuseok in Korea and other Asian autumn festivals!

Traditional mooncake with tea

In China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, citizens celebrate the autumn festival with lanterns, mooncakes and plenty of delicious food! This festival is supposed to celebrate the end of the harvest, thanking the moon deities for a successful harvest and for many more to come. Families eat mooncakes – sweet lotus paste cakes filled with an egg – to symbolize unity and strength. Lanterns are lit as symbols of the festival and riddles are written on them so that others can try to guess the answers.

Haagen-Dazs ice cream mooncakes

Today, the festival is about family unity, and it is common for families and close friends to exchange extravagant boxes of mooncakes. Mooncakes are no longer a simple pastry filled with sweet lotus paste and egg; they can be made of ice cream, green tea, jelly or even chocolate! Lanterns are still lit in honor of the festival, but they have become increasingly extravagant, just like the mooncakes!

Traditional songpyeon

In South Korea, today is Chuseok, a celebration of autumn that is sometimes referred to as “Korean Thanksgiving.” The origins of the festival are a bit of a mystery, as some believe that the festival represented the ancient Kingdom of Silla’s victory over the kingdom of Baekje. Another story says the festival began when the Kingdom of Silla held a monthlong weaving contest between two teams, and that the losing team had to hold a feast in the winning team’s honor.

Ancestral offerings during Chuseok

No matter the origin of the festival, this is one of Korea’s biggest holidays, and families come together to pay respects to their ancestors and eat songpyeon. Songpyeon is a steamed rice cake filled with delicious fillings, such as sesame seeds, jujubes or honey. Sungpyeon is shaped like a half moon, which represents victory and a bright future in Korea. Families often gather together to eat them to wish their families a victorious and bright future.

Check out some pics of your favorite stars celebrating the autumn festival below!

TVXQ enjoying some songpyeon
James Wen from ‘The Fierce Wife’ enjoys mooncake!
Eric Nam of ‘After School Club’ wearing a hanbok
Kim Bum of ‘V Love’ munches on some mooncake

How do you celebrate autumn? Would you like to try mooncakes or songpyeon? Let us know in the comments!

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