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One of the most important holidays here in South Korea is the Chuseok(추석). This year, the celebration of Chuseok falls on September 18-20, that is for chuseok 2013 calendar. I am pretty much excited not only because of the three days off from work but also because it's my first time to celebrate this Festival with the Koreans.
The Chuseok (추석) or originally known as Hangawi (한가위) means "The Thanksgiving" is celebrated every 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar calendar. There are a lot of speculations and versions from various sources about the Chuseok origin, but modern Koreans celebrate Chuseok moon festival as a symbol of great harvest and thanksgiving.
For first timers and non Koreans like me, it is essential to know how Koreans celebrate this event prior to the actual date of Thanksgiving celebration. This is to avoid hassles and delays if you plan to go around during the whole chuseok traditions event. Here are my three tips on how to enjoy this 3-day holiday as a non-Korean or as a tourist.
1. Book your tickets way in advance
During the chuseok festival, it is very very very congested according to my readings. This is the time of the year when mass exodus is happening. Koreans in every part of the country are usually going to their respective provinces to pay tribute to their family of origins. If you have plan to go out during these days, it's good to book your tickets ahead of time. Tickets for buses and trains are usually sold out, so it would be good to book your tickets in advance especially if you will travel in far flung places of South Korea. But if you want to avoid the chaos and you have no time to book in advance, just plan out to visit places that can be accessed via subway.
2. Double check the museums, folk villages and other places you want to visit if they are open during chuseok.
Since this is a traditional family celebration for Koreans, tourists can still visit South Korea because most of the tourist attractions are open during these days. Although it's a holiday, themed parks like N Tower and Everland are open to cater for those who wish to have chuseok travel experience. In fact, most museums and palaces have special activities during the chuseok festival. However, you need to double check in advance if the places you want to visit will definitely open during chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving just to make sure.
3. Avoid the busy days
Chuseok is a festival celebrated with chuseok foods like Songpyeon and Hangwa and lots of fruits. So expect that a few days before the actual chuseok date would be very busy. You must avoid going to major grocery stores of South Korea like E-Mart and Homeplus during these days.
As a foreigner, let's respect the observance of this special holiday of the Koreans. This may be a good opportunity for us to travel South Korea, but if you have the chance to join some ceremonies by Korean families, engulf yourself to experience this very special Korean traditional culture.