Chuseok is one of two major celebrations in Korea (The other being Seollal, or lunar new year). It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar which generally comes during either September or October.
It is a harvest festival that celebrates the beginning of the harvest and, as such, a lot of food and drink is prepared! As well as this, during chuseok, people take part in various ancestral rituals.
One thing you can't fail to notice when walking around the shops in Korea are the giant Chuseok gift boxes. These boxes are usually filled with anything from food to toiletries and are given as a gift around the time of Chuseok.
While these gift sets make buying a Chuseok gift easier than it would otherwise be, it can still be tough to decide which gift set to buy, as well as how much you should spend! Here is a look at some gift giving etiquette so you won't be caught out this year.
Who to give gifts to?
Unlike holidays such as Christmas, gifts at Chuseok do not need to be given reciprocally. In fact, many expats will go through their time Korea without ever giving anyone a Chuseok gift. And, in the most part, this will be completely ok.
One time where it may be a good idea to give gifts during Chuseok is if you are invited to someone's house during the Chuseok period. If this is the case it can be a good idea to bring a present. Although, it could be best to bring a present that can be shared throughout the house as opposed to individual gifts.
Of course, if there is someone you want to give a gift to, for example, someone who has helped you a lot during the year, this could be a good time to repay some of the favor by getting them a Chuseok gift.
If you are in a new relationship and you are wondering whether to get your other half a gift for Chuseok, then this is unlikely to be expected. Instead, you can save your money for White day, Rose day, Valentine's day, Christmas, Pepero day, birthdays, etc.
What if I receive a gift?
You may find that you receive a gift from your boss or parents of your students. If this is the case, it is likely that it won't be expected to be reciprocated as it is more like a thank you for your hard work during the year.
One way you could pass on the good vibes though would be to give a present to any help you may have, for example, cleaners, maids, tutors, etc.
One thing to look out for is if you work in a public school and receive an expensive looking gift. It has recently been made a law that government employees, including teachers, are not allowed to receive gifts of more than 50,000 won.
What are some popular gifts?
▲ Spam gift sets are a popular gift during Chuseok. Photo by Raus Kinnie
Luckily, it shouldn't be too hard to find a gift to give during Chuseok. This is because most shops and supermarkets will have huge, clearly labeled gift sets that are suitable for Chuseok gifts.
As Chuseok celebrates the beginning of harvest, many of these gifts will be food-based and they will range from fruits and rice cakes to huge sets of Korean Beef or seafood.
The gift set will range in price from fairly cheap, to incredibly expensive, so you should set yourself a budget before going shopping. You will almost certainly be able to find something suitable within most budgets.
Other gifts that you will likely see include daily care sets, which are usually full of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc. and well-being gift sets which can include products such as ginseng and tea. While no-one will likely mind if you buy a set like this, food is probably the safer option.
Do I need to wrap a gift set?
Assuming you buy a specially made gift set, you can simply give the present as it is without wrapping it up.
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