Jeongwol Daeboreum is one of the best festivities to embrace the Korean culture. Having the opportunity to experience the ancient traditions can give you a way wide knowledge. Mostly to learn what was and what is Korea and its people. Beside is such a fun!
Moon has a deep meaning in the Korean culture, due to agriculture and fishing work which were done according to the lunar cycle. That’s why in Korea you can find calendars that have the solar and lunar one at the same time. Maybe you have noticed the calendar apart from the normal numbers also have small ones that don’t coincide. Those one indicate the dates of the lunar calendar. Koreans follow the lunar calendar to schedule their agriculture task. That’s why reason people feel that moon means prosperity and good luck. So let’s celebrate at lunar style!
The first celebration in the lunar calendar is Seollal 설날 (or Korean new year), the most important traditional festivity. The date constantly change according to the lunar cycle, this 2018 year Seollal was on February 16th. The second celebration is the first full moon of the year (according to lunar calendar). Which happens 14 days after the first day of the year, the 15th day in the calendar. That’s March 2nd this year. It’s called Jeongwol Daeboreum 정월 대보름 (which literally means great full moon), and it’s a day full of traditions and rituals in Korea that will help to prosper the agriculture during the whole year and to keep people healthy.
Jeongwol Daeboreum has a lot of very interesting traditions and rituals that will help to make your year better. I had the opportunity to visit a temple in countryside during the festivity. Enjoying and celebrating the same way Koreans do brought me a huge surprise because of all the things learned there. So then now, I would like to share my experience with you.
First I enjoyed the prayers inside the temple, where Buddhist was singing with an amazing voice some beautiful sentences. Most of the people in there were old people, who even being so old and tired were giving their best to incline and touch their heads in the floor several times. The prayers were around 20 minutes, and people were not just praying but also singing and giving donations.
Once the prayers for Jeongwol Daeboreum finished people were heading out and picking a rope with lot of clothes tied in. The people did a sort of line following the Buddhist while saying some prayers, making some kind of dance. As I understood, people brought their own cloth and relatives’ cloth to burn them in the fire willing to scare away the bad energies. The fact that fire can fight the evil and bring good luck to the people is a belief for Koreans. After the clothes dance, people started to light candles while praying. If there is something specific to pray for, the candle would be the direct way to convey the message.
Suddenly someone was distributing plastic gloves. I was very curious about what will come next, and actually it was far from my imagination. People were making a line to grab some food (rice and vegetables). At first I really thought we had to eat it or something, but seeing ajummas throwing the food to the mountain was kind of shocking. The thing is, the earth is very important in cities based on agriculture. “The earth has spirit or a kind of god” is what koreans believe. Giving offerings is a way to be grateful with the earth. Once I had the food in my hand they explained me to throw it in four parts according to the cardinal points. After throwing everything we head to some small temple isolated that seemed to be a place to praise mountain’s god.
Once all the rituals and traditions finished people went to a big room with tables to enjoy dinner together. I got a lot of healthy food (mostly vegetables and rice) which names I don’t really know. The rice was kind of special, very colorful and varied, it was first time I saw that kind of rice. It contains 5 different types of grains and beans and its name is Ogokbap 오곡밥. A typical food for Jeongwol Daeboreum festivity. Actually full of nutrients that supposes to help to recover the nutrients lost during the cruel winter where food is limited. Side dishes were mostly dried vegetables, soup, kimchi, rice cake and even fruits. A very common (or traditional) Korean diet.
By the end of the whole ceremony ajummas were offering me rice cake to take to my home and some nuts. As they explained me, eating nuts during this festivity is part of the tradition. It’s a way to clean from furuncle, and it has its roots in the poor communities in Korea that were expose to have this kind of condition. Now it’s more a ancient custom to remind and keep the Korean culture fresh.
It was an amazing and very enriching experience. I got to learn a lot more about the Korean culture that I love so much. The fellowship attitude, commitment feelings, human warmth and the beauty of keeping the traditions alive are characteristic very fascinated. How amazing is to fully understand, from the historical background until the contemporary period, how a culture was built and how it works. And since every city is quite of different, next year I hope to experience the the festival of the geat moon in another city to embrace the culture to its full.
This article was originally published at Korea Diaries. It has been republished by permission of the site.