The lunar calendar of Korea confirms that “Ipchun,” the first day of spring, falls on this coming Saturday. Two days later there will be a festival coming up called “Daeborum,” the first full moon of the lunar calendar . The moon is already blown out itself up in preparation for the traditional marry making ceremonies.
The first day of spring is traditionally, celebrated with “ipchuncheop,” a handwritten poster with greetings for the change in seasons and good wishes. The most common phrases include “ip-chun-dae-gil,” or “may the coming of spring be blessed with great happiness,” and “geon-yang-da-gyeong,” which is roughly translated to “great news and good luck will take place in the new year.”
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Daeboreum literally meaning "Great Full Moon", is a Korean holiday which celebrates the first full moon of the new year of the lunar Korean calendar. This holiday is accompanied by many traditions.
The full moon is an important event during the agricultural times. Festivals including bonfires in the fields and smaller fires inside a can. The latter's would be attached to a string and swing around, later food is offered to the gods of the land for prosperity.
In this occasion, food is a great part of the ritual. The so-called ear-quickening wine and a variety of nuts are served. The former is actually just “cheongju,” a clear rice wine, which takes a special moniker out of the belief that when drunk chilled, it would heighten one’s sense of hearing for the entire year. Cracking nuts in one’s mouth is associated with good health. Finally, steamed rice with mixed grains is served to wish for a fruitful year.
Cracking nuts with one's own teeth is a familiar custom . It is believed that this practice will help keep our teeth healthy throughout the year. On the other hand, in the countrysides, people climb mountains, braving cold weather, trying to catch the first rise of the moon. There is a saying that the first person to see the moon rise will have good luck all year or a their wishes will come true.
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Historically, people played the traditional game named geuybulnori (쥐불놀이) in the night before the festival Daeboreum. People burned dry grass on the ridges between rice fields while children whirled around cans full of holes, through which charcoal fire blazed. These cans fertilized the fields and get rid from harmful worms which destroyed the new crops.
For breakfast on Daeboreum or Jeongwol Daeboreum,Koreans eat Ogok-bap or five-grain rice with an assortment of seasoned vegetables over the festival. Ogok-bap (오곡밥), a five-grain rice consisting of rice, millet, Indian millet, beans, and red beans is served (gok includes grains and beans). This is eaten with various dried herbs. One of the special foods of Daeboreum is Yaksik (약식). This treat is made of glutinous rice, chestnuts, pinenuts, honey, sauce, and sesame oil.
On this day, Koreans traditionally do not give any food to dogs since it is believed that dogs that eat on this day will contract gad flies and become ill during the coming summer.
In the past, when it was a luxury to have three meals a day, it was believed that going around the neighborhood and getting at least three helpings of the dish would bring good luck and health throughout the year. It was a custom to promote a giving spirit among neighbors by sharing food when the country was poor.
The food of Daeboreum focuses on using the opportunity to restore appetite and nutrition lost over the cold winter months. Eating hearty, nutritious fare is also important because it is the beginning of the farming season.
The night before, farmers burned dry grasses on the ridges between the rice fields. Charcoal fires blazed in cans, through which holes were pierced, that were placed along the rice fields. Although the purpose is to get rid of insects that will destroy new crops that are supposedly to be soon planting, children have fun dancing and whirling around the cans.
These days, people hold a special bonfire and on Jeju Island, there’s an annual Daeboreum Festival, complete with bonfire and other activities.
There is a legend that Yaksik is eaten in memory of the crow that saved the life of King Yuri (24-57) from the Silla Kingdom. King Yuri was eating ‘alfresco’ in his garden on the day of the first full moon, when a passing crow dropped a’letter’ at his feet. On the outside was written, “If opened, two shall die. If not opened, one will die.” The puzzled king as some of his advisors for an explanation and was given the following interpretation, “The ‘one’ refers to your majesty, while the ‘two’ are other people.” So the King opened the letter and read the message it contained, “Shoot an arrow into the harp case.” He hurried back to the palace and did so. As he looked into the case, he found his Queen and a monk, dead in each other’s embrace. It appears, that the Queen had fallen in love with the monk and the two had been planning to murder her husband, the King, that very night. To repay the the crow, the King proclaimed the 15th, the day of the first full moon, the day on which his life was saved, as Crow Thanksgiving Day.
In gratitude, a rite to the crow was held with an offering of black rice, the color of the crow. During the Goryeo period, black rice was replaced with sweetened rice made with honey, dates and chestnuts. The common people usually replace the expensive yaksik with the more affordable five-grain dish, ogokbap.
All villages and towns celebrate the first full moon together. People play with fire and pray that their New Year’s dream will come true.
Not only communities but families also celebrate Full Moon Day in their houses. People usually eat cooked rice mixed with four other grains, seasoned vegetables, and nuts. In the days around the Full Moon Day, it is easy to find grains, dried vegetables and nuts in markets or grocery stores.
Last year when I was in Korea, I also collects bunch of peanuts, walnuts, and chestnuts when me and my friends went shopping. I planned to celebrate with my roommates. Korean people refer to Full Moon Day nuts as “Bureom” because people believe that they can prevent from boils (Buseureom meaning “boil” in Korean).
Me and my friends cracked number of nuts with our teeth. Because of this particular ceremony we compete to cracked as many nuts. Later we enjoyed Jeongwol Daeboreum with many Korean special delicious items.
The National Folk Museum is going to host some of the traditions on the two dates. Fifteen different programs are on offer, including food and beverages.
Photo Credits: The Chosun Ilbo
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