KWA celebrates Korean Full Moon Festival with music, food

KWA celebrates Korean Full Moon Festival with music, food

Performers at the Moon Festival
Performers at the KWA Moon Festival wind their way through spectators

The vibrant colors of Hanbok or traditional Korean dress swirled and flowed amongst the more conservative western garb at Korean Women’s Association (KWA) meal site on Sept. 7. Koreans celebrate Chusok or the Korean Full Moon Festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month of the Korean calendar.   The centuries old festival, which runs three days, celebrates the autumn harvest with thanks and gratitude for their ancestors.  For 2011, Chusok fell on Sept. 12 and was celebrated Sept. 11 through Sept 13.

Gongs and drums crashed and thrummed in a clamorous, heavy heartbeat as participants and spectators alike clapped, sang and shouted.   The musicians circled and danced amongst jests and laughter as spectators joined and then left the group in an unorchestrated, organic mass until finally the performers wound their way through the entire room and out the door.

Then the real celebration began.  Koreans enjoy Karaoke in a way it takes many in American a few drinks to achieve.  According to statistics collected in 2009, an average of 1.9 million South Koreans participate in Karaoke each day.  Celeste Lee said, “Koreans love to sing.”  Lee, Program Manager for Social Services at KWA, said that when she gets together with friends, they eat and talk for a while and then they sing.  At first, she admitted she was nervous but as with most things the more you practice, the better you become.  It’s obvious that the twenty or so participants in the Karaoke contest had practiced a great deal.  One participant scored 100 points on the game system that ranks singers on their pitch, timing and rhythm.  Most scored impressively in the high 80s and 90s.  Even to the uninitiated, they sounded impressive.

A short break in the singing occurred just long enough for everyone to enjoy a traditional Korean meal with baked mackerel, chap chae (a popular noodle dish), beef and white radish soup, crescent-shaped rice cakeS and squid seasoned with red peppers, vinegar and garlic.

Although, Chusok is celebrated only once a year, KWA serves traditional Asian foods every week at their two meal sites.  The meal site at 123 East 96th Street in Tacoma serves Korean meals on Wednesdays, international meals on Thursdays and Samoan meals on Fridays.  In addition, Vietnamese meals are served Mondays and Thursday at the Indochinese Cultural and Service Center at 1427 East 40th Street in Tacoma.  That location serves Cambodian meal on Tuesdays and Fridays.   Nearly 300 meals are served each week between the two meal sites.  The 96th Street location can be reached at (253) 535-4202.  The Indochinese site can be reached at (253) 473-5666.

KWA started in 1972 as a Korean women’s social club in Tacoma.  Over the years, KWA has changed from that social club to a social service agency to help Korean women acclimate into American culture and has gradually become an association that assisted the needs of Asian Pacific Islander immigrants and refugees.

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