The Moon has a special meaning for Korean people. A symbol of prosperity and good fortune, the Moon has long influenced life patterns and lifestyles in Korea.

In traditional communities where people farmed and fished for a living, the lunar cycle provided a dependable schedule for when to start and end each year of agricultural work. The first full Moon of the lunar year, called Jeongwol Daeboreum, came to mark the beginning of the farming year and became an event as important as Seollal, the Lunar New Year. .

This year, Jeongwol Daeboreum falls on February 6 the 15th day of the first month on the lunar calendar. Various customs that traditionally accompanied the day, including praying upon the full moon for good fortune, continue to this day.
(Full moon has a special meaning in Korea; photo courtesy of Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation)

Another popular custom is to wake up early in the morning to crack open and eat hard-shelled nuts such as chestnuts, walnuts, or pine nuts. Koreans describe the activity as ‘clearing bureom;’ the Korean word bureom is a homonym for a boil. Due to the harsh living conditions and widespread poverty in early Korean communities, boils were a common affliction, so when the New Year came around, parents would encourage their children to eat nutrient-rich nuts instead of rice. Today, these nuts remain a symbol of Jeongwol Daeboreum.

Nuts are a symbolic food of Jeongwol Daeboreum (photo courtesy of Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation).

There are also special dishes prepared for this day. Ogokbap, a type of rice cooked with five kinds of grains and beans, is traditionally eaten with a side dish of assorted namul, or dried vegetables. Preparations for making namul typically begin in the fall, when vegetables like pumpkins, eggplants, and dried radish greens can be collected and dried. According to Korean tradition, eating the various boiled and fried variations of namul helps to stimulate appetites lost during the chilly winter. Tradition also says that in the summer, eating long-stored foods like namul will help to ward off uncomfortable heat.

Speaking of summer heat, another fun custom practiced on Jeongwol Daeboreum is the race to fend off the fate of a hot summer by giving it to someone else. “Take my heat away!” is what people will yell, often seconds after calling out the name of an unsuspecting friend or passerby, so that the typical response of “Yes?” will be interpreted as agreement to “take away” the impending heat. If the called friend is not so gullible, he will yell the phrase first, reversing the situation so that the one who did the calling will end up having to face a hotter summer. Out of courtesy, the game is usually not played with adults or the elderly.

Each year, the Namsan Hanok Village prepares festivities for Jeongwol Daeboreum (photo courtesy of Ageratum’s fotolife/Hwang Hyun).

While Seollal is a family-oriented holiday, Jeongwol Daeboreum was typically celebrated together by all the members of a village in one open area. Although the concept of the village community has faded, many folk games continue to be performed in large groups.

In a traditional activity called “stepping on the spirit of the Earth,” farmers organize a band of people to walk around the village and pray to the god of the Earth for good fortune (photo courtesy of Namsan Hanok Village).

One such game involves what Koreans call “stepping on the spirit of the Earth.” Farmers would organize a band of people to walk around the village, praying to the god of the Earth for good fortune, while the landlord would prepare a feast to thank them for their efforts.

According to traditional beliefs, burning a heap of straw keeps evil away (photo courtesy of Namsan Hanok Village).

On Jeongwol Daeboreum, groups of people will also gather in open spaces to burn heaps of rice straws, dancing and singing and playing traditional instruments around the bonfire. This practice, known as jibul nori, comes from the traditional belief that fire keeps away evil and brings good luck. Traditionally, villagers would set fire to sections of their farms and rice paddies in order to kill harmful winter insects, and the remaining ashes would be left on the ground as fertilizer for the coming spring.

As a holiday that was traditionally celebrated by the whole village, Jeongwol Daeboreum involves various group activities. In the tug-of-war competition, the winning team is said to receive good fortune throughout the upcoming year (photo courtesy of Samcheok-si).

Another favorite pastime is a tug-of-war competition that requires a team effort. The rope is made from straw, with the thickest part of the straw in the middle, and the thinner strands stretched out to be pulled by two teams, with the winning team receiving good fortune for the upcoming year.


Jeongwol Daeboreum festivals will be held nationwide, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy Korean customs that are slowly disappearing in modern times.

Seoul Namsan Hanok Village (02 2266 6923, Namsan Hanok Village)
Seoul Bukchon Jeongwol Daeboreum Festival (02 3707 8388, Bukchon Culture Center)
Jeju Island Jeongwol Fire Festival (http://www.buriburi.go.kr/foreign/eng/htmls/main.htm
Samcheok Jeongwol Full Moon Festival (http://eng.samcheok.go.kr/03Tour/06_01.asp )
Andong Full Moon Festival (054 859 0825, Nakdonggang area)
Pilbong Full Moon Festival (070 4105 3026, Pilbong village)
Full Moon Festival organized by Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation
(Culture Center in Incheon International Airport, 02 1577 2600)
(Korea House, 02 2266 9101)

By Lee Seung-ah
Korea.net Staff writer



[Source: Korea.net]