CHRISTIANA -- Happy Thanksgiving!
You'll be forgiven if you did not realize that Thursday was Thanksgiving, or at least, the Korean version of the holiday. Chuseok is Korea's Thanksgiving, and it dates back many centuries, certainly longer than America's harvest holiday.
Several Shelbyville residents gathered last Sunday at the Korean Baptist Church in Christiana to celebrate the holiday, including Wayne and Jeong Hee Dillingham and Hae Suk Grogan. After their worship service, the congregation held an early celebration of the holiday with all the traditional fixings, from kimchi to songpyeon.
Actually, the holiday runs for three days, and the date in September always varies because Korea is on a lunar calendar. This year, the holiday started last Wednesday and ran through Friday, although Thursday was the most important day of the event, said Wayne Dillingham. When combined with Saturday and Sunday, Koreans actually are celebrating a five-day holiday. Wayne's wife, Jeong Hee, is a South Korea native who attends Korean Baptist Church.
Koreans celebrate Chuseok on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, Jeong Hee Dillingham said.
She said that as a child, one of her favorite Chuseok memories was receiving back-to-school clothes.
"You would get all new clothes from the top to your toes," she said.
And just like in America, kids in Korea love getting out of school -- in Korea, the children got all three days of Chuseok off, Jeong Hee Dillingham said.
"All the family gathers together," she said.
Chuseok is also frequently a time of year when the mornings start getting chilly, Jeong Hee Dillingham said. It is a wonderful time when there is a lot of cooking going on and children do not want to go to bed. The family table is normally set by 7:30 or 8 in the morning, she said.
"You have the smell of fall in the morning, and people start wearing long-sleeve shirts," Jeong Hee Dillingham said.
Wayne Dillingham said that visiting the graves of loved ones is another Chuseok tradition, one that he took part in last Sunday by visiting the graves of his parents.
Paul Kim, pastor of Korean Baptist Church, shared the names of several typical Chuseok dishes. They include songpyeon, a shaped rice cake steamed on a layer of pine cones; chopsuey, a mixed dish of vegetables and sliced meat; and kimchi, spicy, pickled vegetables seasoned with garlic, red pepper and ginger.
Additional dishes include sangsun jen, fried fish, and yakbab, sweet, steamed rice, Wayne Dillingham said.
Jeong Hee Dillingham did not celebrate Chuseok for most of her 27 years in America, she said, but she has started doing so recently because her husband is interested in Korean culture. Wayne Dillingham served in Korea in the military and fell in love with the culture.