|People exercise near a glowing full moon installation in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
By Bae Eun-joo
Chuseok, Korea's autumn thanksgiving day, is one of the biggest and most celebrated holidays in the country when family members from near and far gather together to honor their ancestors. Also known as hangawi ("the great middle of the autumn"), it is a major harvest festival celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar when there is a full moon.
The Chuseok holiday is also a time of the year when millions of Koreans are on the move, emptying out the capital as people head for their hometowns.
This year's Chuseok, however, may become a time of yearning for some people who cannot reunite with their loved ones as the government is strongly recommending citizens to refrain from visiting their families or relatives amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.
|A woman poses in front of an artificial full moon in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
The government said the country is facing a big challenge and a crucial moment to control any possible spike in infections during the five-day Chuseok holiday which starts Sept. 30. Access to cemeteries will be restricted and highway toll fees will be collected this year over fears of new virus outbreaks during the mass migration.
For residents of Seoul who have decided to stay in the city instead of traveling to their hometowns to hold ancestral memorial rites during the nation's biggest holiday, Seongdong-gu has prepared a special event.
A glowing installation of the full moon was erected in Salgoji Sports Park along Cheonggye Stream last week where visitors can make "wishes upon the moon." With a diameter of 12 meters, the artificial moon installation will brighten up the autumn night along with 21 smaller moons.
|A man takes photographs of the full moon installation in a park in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Tuesday. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk|
Symbolizing a message of hope in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, the artificial moon will bring people who are exhausted both emotionally and physically together to comfort each other, and renew their will to overcome this virus-driven crisis, the district officials said.
A drive-in movie theater will also be opened in Salgoji Park along with the moon installations where visitors can enjoy moonlit movies while abiding by social distancing guidelines.