From Sept. 18 through 20, the country will be filled with the holiday spirit as families gather, share love, news and, most of all, holiday presents over Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving.
Families will visit their hometowns or gather at their parents’ houses, enjoy holiday meals, watch TV and play games, share conversation to catch up on each other’s lives, take a break from their daily routines and then return home with a sense of fulfillment.
And of course, their hands will be full with presents they have exchanged. Sharing gifts on Chuseok has been a long-held tradition in Korea. Various documents suggest that the so-called “tteokgap,” or money to buy Korean rice cake, was handed out by superiors at work or family seniors, as encouragement to enjoy the holiday without being too financially burdened. Today, it is more of a two-way thing, where people exchange gifts with cards or well-wishes.
Exchanging gifts is one of the most exciting parts of the Chuseok holiday. (Grand InterContinental Hotel)
Foods ― classic Chuseok gifts
One of the most classic Chuseok gifts, since the time when consumption of meat was rare, has been Spam. The processed ham in a tin was selected the best-selling Chuseok gift in the processed meat category by retailers for 10 consecutive years. Its Korean manufacturer, CJ, released a variety of packages including one with nine 200-gram cans priced at 27,290 won for this Chuseok.
Kooksoondang, a maker of Korean traditional liquors, restored “Yihwaju,” rice wine from the Goryeo era (918-1392), and “Songjeolju” that has been widely enjoyed by Joseon (1392-1910) aristocrats. Its “Jayang Baekseju” package is comprised of a variety of liquors ― Jayang Baekseju, Jang Baekseju, Baekokju ― that are claimed to enhance men’s stamina.
Hotels are leading the latest trend in Chuseok hampers. They are mostly delivered free of charge in Seoul.
Restaurant 8 Chuseok Hamper (Hyatt Regency Incheon)
The Imperial Palace Hotel presents the L.A. galbi set, pork belly set, and high-end wine set at prices starting from 50,000 won.
“We believe that many people will be going camping or doing outdoor activities during the five-day holiday period and pork belly is certainly one of the most celebrated ingredients for outdoor barbecue,” said Wang Seong-cheol, executive chef of the hotel.
The Millennium Seoul Hilton presents Ganjanggejang, fresh crabs marinated and fermented with soy sauce; Korean short rib; “gulbi,” or dried croaker, presented in gift sets and French Grand Cru wine set starting from 180,000 won.
“Ku Yong-hoi, our chef who has been invited to cook for PGA champion Yang Yong-eun and many other celebrities, developed his secret galbi sauce by simmering soy sauce, sugar, ginger and leek for 90 minutes and then adding several other ingredients for another four hours. It actually requires 24 hours to make it,” the hotel said.
Renaissance Seoul is presenting a premium Chilean wine and cheese set alongside New Zealand’s Manuka honey packages starting at 85,000 won. The Grand Hyatt Seoul offers an Asam and English Breakfast tea and pound cake set; Iliada Extra Virgin olive oil and Chianti Classico vinegar package as well as wine and cheese sets with prices starting at 95,000 won.
“We will gift wrap them in a wooden box with traditional Korean patterns,” a hotel PR officer said. Limited edition items
Household goods manufacturer Aekyung released “Kerasys Van Gogh Museum,” a selection of hair care products priced between 9,900 won and 29,900 won featuring the works of the Dutch painter on the container. The company has bought the rights to use the images for a year and the specially packaged products will be available starting from Chuseok period.
“We are targeting people in search of unique but reasonably priced gifts. The containers are good for collecting,” the company PR officer said.
WE ART (www.wart.co.kr) makes an oil-painted portrait from a photograph, which is popular among children wanting to offer something unique to their parents. The company hires artists to add oil paints on the photo printouts, bringing out a feeling of nostalgia and at the same time a sense of exclusiveness to those who receive the gift. Travel
According to the government, more than 70,000 people leave the country for overseas travel every day and Chuseok is no exception. The tourism industry is eager to capture people going on family trips, especially with the elderly members of the family.
Hana Tour, the country’s leading travel agency, has created a number of travel packages targeting the elderly. It is promoting a four-day trip to Hokkaido, Japan, where visitors look around a sake museum and manufacturing site, go all the way up to Mt. Yuju on a ropeway, experience kaiseki-ryori, a traditional Japanese meal, and take a hot spring bath. Another popular product is a six-day trip to Australian Gold Coast, where people can observe wildlife animals, trek Bondi Beach, visit wineries and enjoy a dolphin cruise.
“It is mostly clean, safe and temperate. The package does not require too much walking at the same time. Most of the buyers take it as a gift to their parents. And thanks to the five-day holiday, nearly all of the packages in those areas are booked,” said Song Won-sun, PR manager of the company.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com