How do the Koreans celebrate Jeongwol Daeboreum (Great Full Moon Festival)?

I have received requests for writing more on Lunar New Year-related rituals and events.  As 11 February 2017 is the day of Jeongwol Daeboreum (정월 대보름) (Great Full Moon Festival), in this blog post I will talk about some interesting rituals relating to Jeongwol Daeboreum and celebration events in which both Koreans and foreigners can participate in South Korea.

Do you know you can sell your heat to the others on Jeongwol Daeboreum in South Korea? “Jeongwol” (정월) literally means “first lunar month” and “Daeboreum” (대보름) literally means “great full moon”.  It falls on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar and it is believed that the moon on this day is the brightest in the year. Jeongwol Daeboreum is an important day for Koreans who celebrate it with various interesting rituals and games to wish for good luck and health throughout the year. There are also Jeongwol Daeboreum festivals held throughout South Korea in which both Koreans and foreigners can participate.

Deowipalgi (더위팔기 – “Selling the heat”)

It is believed that before sunrise on Jeongwol Daeboreum, if you call the name of a friend or sibling and that person responds, you can say to him/her, “내 더위 사가라” (which means “Buy my heat” and sounds like “nae deo-wi sa-ga-ra”) and that person will absorb all the heat that you would otherwise receive in the coming summer. That’s why on that day, Koreans like to ask each other how many times they have sold their heat.  This is indeed an interesting ritual.  Nowadays, this is done as a game throughout the day and people just say”내 더위 사가라” without calling the others’ names first.  So, while I was in Seoul, on Jeongwol Daeboreum, my friends and I tried to say “내 더위 사가라” as soon as possible when we met since it is believed that the first one to say so will be successful in selling the heat.

You can learn how to say “내 더위 사가라” (which means “Buy my heat” and sounds like “nae deo-wi sa-ga-ra”) by watching this video.  Make sure you are the first one to say it when you meet the others in order to be successful in selling your heat.

Food and drinks for Jeongwol Daeboreum

“Bureom” (부럼) is a collection of nuts (e.g., walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, chestnuts and gingko nuts) eaten on Jeongwol Daeboreum.  In the morning of Jeongwol Daeboreum, Koreans crack the shells of Bureom with their teeth and it is believed that this ritual can help prevent boils on the skin, keep one’s teeth healthy and bring good luck. According to the tradition, people should match the number of nuts cracked to their age though in practice, people usually crack open only two or three nuts.

For breakfast, Koreans eat seasoned vegetables dishes (e.g., punpkin, eggplants and mushrooms) and “Ogokbap” (오곡밥 – “five-grain rice”) which is a cooked dish containing five types of grain (i.e., glutinous rice, black bean, glutinous African millet, sweet red bean and glutinous millet).  It is believed that sharing the seasoned vegetable dishes and Ogokbap with at least three neighbours brings good luck throughout the year.

On the other hand, Koreans drink the “gwibalgisul” (귀밝이술 – “ear-sharpening wine”) which is made of cheongju (a type of cold, clear and strained rice wine) to get the blessing of hearing good news throughout the year.

Burning Daljip (달집 – “Moon House”)

Daljip is a “moon house” made up of a huge heap of straw or twigs with a door to the east for the moon to enter when it rises. Koreans also attach written notes of good wishes for the year to the daljip. When the full moon rises, the daljip is set on fire to ward off misfortune and bring good luck.  It is also believed that the way in which the daljip burns foretells how the year’s crop will turn out – if the daljip burns steadily and doesn’t fall apart, then there will be a good harvest; if the daljip falls apart or is blown away, then there will be a bad harvest.  You can watch this video regarding the burning daljip ceremony.

Jwibulnori (쥐불놀이)

Jwibulnori is a game which children like to play very much.  This involves spinning a can filled with burning charcoal in the field.  The original purpose is to burn the dry grass to kill the vermin and fertilize the field with the resulting ashes.  Nowadays, Koreans play this game in the parks in the cities just for fun with no intention of burning the parks! However, this game can be quite dangerous to you and the others around you if you are not so skilful in spinning the can of burning charcoal.  You can watch this video to appreciate how interesting and dangerous this game can be.

Watching the Rising First Full Moon and Jeongwol Daeboreum Celebration Events in South Korea

Koreans like to go to some higher grounds like mountains to watch the rise of the first full moon with their family members, friends and lovers.  In Seoul, a popular place to watch the rise of the first full moon is the N Seoul Tower.

There are various celebration events held throughout South Korea for Jeongwol Daeboreum.  For example, in Seoul, the Korean Folk Village will hold a number of events involving traditional customs of Jeongwol Daeboreum during the period from 11 to 12 February 2017.  Another well-known festival is the Jeju Fire Festival (or Jeju Field-Burning Festival) to be held from 2 to 5 March 2017 during which activities relating to the customs like burning daljip, field-burning, traditional marches and concerts will be held.  You can get more information about the Jeju Fire Festival by reading this article.

You can get more information on the celebration events and good places to view the full moon in South Korea by reading this article by Korea Tourism Organization.

If you happen to be in South Korea around Jeongwol Daeboreum (which falls on 11 February 2017 of the Western calendar for this year), don’t forget to participate in the celebration events to share the fun and bring good fortune and health for the coming year.

Happy Jeongwol Daeboreum! 🙂

 

References:

Jeongwol Daeboreum celebrations and best places to view the full moon“, Korea Tourism Organization, 2015-01-14

Yoon Sung-won, “Jeongwol Daeboreum“, The Korea Times, 2014-02-14

Arirang Issue, “Korea Today – Festivities in full swing at Imsil“, Arirang TV, 2014-02-12

Heo Seung-ha, “Koreans celebrate first full moon of Lunar New Year“, Arirang News, 2013-02-24

Daeboreum ‘Great Full Moon’ Festival“, KCM Blog, 2013-02-24

First full moon of the year an auspicious occasion“, The Chosun Ilbo, 2013-02-23

Arirang Issue, “Jeongwol Daeboreum Festival“, Arirang TV, 2013-02-07

Ancient traditions persist on 1st full moon of Lunar New Year“, The Chosun Ilbo, 2012-02-06

이해영, 김은영, 신경선, 주은경, 이정란, 이현의,  《생활 속 한국 문화77》, 서울: 랭기지플러스<한글파크>, 2011, 116-117쪽

Jingi Cheon (ed.), Encyclopedia of Korean Seasonal Customs, Seoul: The National Folk Museum of Korea, 2010-06-30, pp. 50-64

Full moon Daeboreum traditions“, Korea Tourism Organization, 2010-02-24

Cracking “bureom” brings a healthy year“, Dynamic Busan, Issue No. 31, 2008-02-01

29 thoughts on “How do the Koreans celebrate Jeongwol Daeboreum (Great Full Moon Festival)?

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