They call it “Korean Thanksgiving,” but it doesn’t involve turkey, cranberry sauce or football and it doesn’t kick off a shopping frenzy.

Queens Botanical Garden will host its 37th annual Chuseok Moon Festival on both days this weekend.

This celebration of Korean culture will feature an abundance of food, activities, and time-honored products. The musical entertainment will be decidedly modern, though, with many K-pop performances on the schedule.

The word “Chuseok” translates literally from Korean as “Autumn Eve,” and this event is a major harvest festival and three-day weekend in North and South Korea. (It’s celebrated during the autumn equinox, which is the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar year.)

Similar to Thanksgiving, it’s a time for families to get together and eat specific foods, especially a rice cake with pine needles called “songpyeon,” a decorated, colorful hangwa cookie, and a bean pancake called “nokdujeon.” Sindoju, a liquor made from freshly harvested rice, is commonly consumed, too, as folklore indicates that those who drink the same alcoholic beverage as their ancestors have nothing to fear in life.

Koreans also demonstrate appreciation to spiritual powers and pay homage to their ancestors, usually visiting tombs or holding services at home.

There are also traditional plays, the Ganggansullae dance, which involves children and women in silk clothing forming and circle while holding hands, and Ssireum wrestling. Martial arts, tightrope walking, archery, full-village tug-of-war, and a swinging contest are also common. In some rural areas, people dress like animals, especially cows and turtles, and go door to door seeking food.

The schedule is Saturday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Chuseok is pan-Asian, and its origins are disputed. According to the Korean Culture and Information Service, an affiliate of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Chuseok has been an important holiday since the reign of King Yuri (24-57 AD), the third king of Silla Dynasty. Chuseok commonly means “giving thanks for the year’s crops.”

Queens Botanical Garden is located at 43-50 Main St. in Flushing. Attendance is free, but onsite parking is $10. By public transportation, the venue is accessible via the 7 train, Long Island Rail Road and Q44-SBS or Q20 bus.

Image: Queens Botanical Garden


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