Depending on the path of the moon, Chuseok always falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar each year. Originally known as Hangawi, Chuseok is Korea’s traditional harvest festival, much akin to Thanksgiving back in North America.
Much like North Americans, Koreans travel back to their hometowns and enjoy traditional foods with their families, such as songpyeon (rice cakes). Their rituals differ however, like playing go-stop instead of watching football, and bowing to ancestors instead of undoing a few rings on your belt to pass out on the La-Z-Boy in a tryptophan daze.
On top of the food and festivities, it turns the weekend into a four-day holiday (curse the calendar for not making it a five day this year!), with most of us finding ourselves with a lot of free time on our hands looking for something to do. So, what is there to do this holiday? Here’s a couple suggestions you might consider:
Stay off the roads!
Traffic in Busan is not something you would call enjoyable. During Chuseok, the traffic becomes worse – much, much worse . Twelve hour trips to Seoul (which usually run about 4-5 hours) are the norm over the holiday, and even a jaunt across town in a cab can sometimes take twice as long.
Stick to the subway, or better yet, if your going to brave the traffic, bring your IPod, IPad, Galaxy Tab or smart phone for entertainment, and make sure you charge the thing before you leave your house, as you could be in for a long, boring ride. And though you are not likely to be stuck in the world’s largest traffic jam – it stretched for 109 miles between Lyon and Paris back in 1980 – it sure may seem like it.
Most people have done this at least once in their first year here – made the drunken call home. After a long night of partying somewhere, ending up at a noraebang, outside a Family Mart, or a “how did I get home?” night, for some reason people think it’s a great idea to make that call back home – whether to mom and dad, your best friends, or even worse, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend who are going about their day. Why thinking “Hey! It’s 3 a.m. here, and they’re up!” is a good idea to make a phone call, is a question only the liquor Gods can answer.
It’s never fun to wake up with a hangover, do the inevitable pocket-wallet check, and then the “Oh mother of god, I called them? I hope I didn’t say anything stupid” cell phone check. You can avoid that this time by using some common sense and calling at a convenient hour and a little less inebriated.
Catch up with friends and family back home and have a nice conversation, so that every time they get an incoming “Caller ID Unknown” Skype call, they won’t be thinking, “Not another one of these calls I hope. What the hell are they going to be babbling about this time?”
Throwing a house party during Chuseok has its advantages.
First of all, you can be as loud as you want because the neighbors are probably out of town.
Second, the odds that if they are home, they are having a family get-together that will also be noisy can offset any complaints that they will have against your party. Win-win.
As most Korean families are getting together and enjoying their holiday, night time usually turns into family reunions, which means like many families around the world, they like to drink (whether it’s to endure the family visit is another story). However, the noise volume in apartments can increase here during the holidays, and the security guards and neighbors seem to be a little more lax in making the 10 p.m. “Hey, noisy!” stop by your place.
Inviting friends over for dinner and drinks can be a lot less stressful during the holidays, so if you’ve been wanting to entertain some people over, it might be a good chance to do it now.
If your room smells or looks like a college dorm room, it’s probably not a good sign. Remember, you probably didn’t have any money then.
Those empty pizza boxes, chicken boxes with bones still in them or whatever kind of thing that may be growing in your sink is not doing your lungs any favors. Nor is the mold on your winter clothes that the summer rains brought which may or may not have destroyed them, but you haven’t bothered to look at yet.
Doing a little cleaning around your place and organizing yourself will go a long way in not only protecting yourself from god-knows-what, but will keep those weird fall bugs and cockroaches away from your room.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I need to exercise more”, I’d be sitting comfortably on a beach somewhere in Southeast Asia for a good long spell.
Going on a four-day bender may seem like a good idea this holiday, but wait until you go back to work next Wednesday and think, “Wow… I guess I can’t party like I used too. But it seemed like such a good idea at the time.”
As the temperature has slightly been dropping the last few days, climbing mountains in Busan can be a great way to get some exercise. There’s no shortage of great places to climb, and the mountains aren’t high or treacherous enough to make it a daunting task. Take a picnic and enjoy the fresh air – your body will thank you for it later.