Thursday, September 24, 2015

Delights For Chuseok - 추석!

Being away from home and witnessing or participating in festivals of other cultures is an exciting way to get to know a country.
As we get into the Chuseok weekend, we were delighted to have received a box full of a Korean sweet, hwagwaja, today. And this told us a lot about Korea...

Chuseok, which was originally known as hangawi, is a major harvest festival and is celebrated as a three-day holiday in Korea starting on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Like other harvest festivals, it is held around the autumn equinox...

On Chuseok, Koreans travel to their hometowns to pay respect to their deceased ancestors. This memorial service is known as charye. People perform ancestral worship rituals early in the morning. Then, they visit the tombs of their immediate ancestors (seongmyo) to trim weeds and clean the area around the tomb (beolcho). This custom is considered as an expression of devotion and respect for one’s family. Koreans offer food, drink, and crops to their ancestors, as harvested crops are attributed to the blessing of ancestors. And they pray for bountiful harvests and prosperity in the future, a lot like what festivals in India signify...

The feasting then follows - songpyeon or rice cakes and hwagwaja or flower cake form the sweet delights of feasting...

The hwagwaja usually comes as a boxed set and is a lot like the Korean equivalent of a chocolate box. The hwagwaja are hand-made and were originally prepared for nobility. Others claim that the sweet has its origins in Japan and was brought here by the colonial masters in 1910. But today, the sweet is a part of Korean festivities.
Hwagwaja are a lot like rice cakes, made from sticky glutinous rice. They are made with a variety of fillings - sweet rice flour, rice powder, honey, red bean, black sesame, sweet potato, chestnuts, and agar agar for consistency. Hwagwaja come in unique shapes. They may be shaped like flowers, leaves or fruits.
Hwagwaja are light on the calories and are enjoyed with green tea, which brings out their sweetness and flavour.

Hwagwaja and these warm words to make us feel at home here, in Korea!

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