While it's true that many stores are closed on the actual day of Chuseok, the days leading up to the holiday are usually bustling with activity as department stores, grocery stores, and other retail outlets offer Chuseok gift sets (추석선물세트) for sale. Shopping for these gift sets becomes a prevalent activity during this time, given that Chuseok is one of the biggest holidays in Korea.
Historically, because Chuseok is a harvest festival, the gifts exchanged typically included freshly harvested foods. Today, the range of items in gift sets has expanded, encompassing traditional items like fruits and ginseng as well as diverse products such as shampoo, soap, or even spam. If you're outside Korea, consider checking your local Asian supermarket for any special Chuseok-themed foods for sale during this time - the spirit of the harvest festival isn't exclusive to Korea!
Fruits and Agricultural Produce: The giving of fruits and other agricultural produce ties back to Chuseok's roots as a harvest festival. It's a way of sharing the bounty of the harvest with others. These gifts also symbolize wishes for health and prosperity.
Rice and Grains: These are basic staples in Korean cuisine and signify sustenance and fertility. They are usually well-received because they can be used in everyday cooking.
Meats and Seafood: High-quality meats and seafood are considered luxury items in many cultures, Korea included. Giving these as gifts symbolizes respect for the recipient and a desire for their good health.
Ginseng and Health Products: Ginseng is considered a health booster in traditional Korean medicine, and other health products like vitamins and health drinks are also common. These gifts symbolize a wish for the recipient's good health.
Alcohol: Soju, traditional Korean liquors, and imported wines are often included in gift sets. Alcohol is typically used in ancestral rites performed during Chuseok and is also enjoyed during the festive meals.
Everyday Household Items: Items like shampoo, soap, cooking oil, or spam are practical gifts that will be used by the recipient's household. These gifts signify a wish for the recipient's comfortable living.
Traditional Korean Sweets and Snacks: Gift sets can include traditional Korean sweets like yakgwa (honey cookies) and hangwa (traditional Korean confections), as well as snacks like dried jujubes and chestnuts. These gifts are usually enjoyed by the whole family, bringing sweetness and joy during the festival.
Republic of Korea - Flickr
In a recent effort to curb corruption and bribery, an anti-corruption law has been enacted that caps the prices of Chuseok gift sets. This law places restrictions on the amount of money public officials in civil service, media, or education sectors can spend and accept. Specifically, the law stipulates a ₩30,000 limit on meals, a ₩50,000 limit on gifts, and a ₩100,000 limit on cash that public officials can accept at closed events.