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Jeongwol Daeboreum - Korean Lantern Festival

An important festival in traditional agrarian Korea was the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, called Jeongwol Daeboreum (Jeongwol meaning first month and Daeboreum meaning 'big full moon'. On this day, people would wish for good luck and health throughout the year and participate in all kinds of folk games and rituals, many of which were based on the belief that the light of the first full moon of the year signifies affluence and good luck. The celebrations are held on the 15th day of the first lunar month - Monday 9 February in this year's solar calendar.

Games and Rituals
The first person to see the moon rise is said to be assured of good luck all year; therefore, on the evening of the first full moon, this year Monday 9 February, some people still climb mountains to catch the moon as it begins to rise, while others crack nuts with their teeth in a practice (bureom) that was believed would keep teeth healthy for the year – the number of nuts should be equal to one's age. Eating chestnuts, walnuts, peanuts, pine and/or gingko nuts not only strengthened a person's teeth, the sound was said to drive away evil spirits and prevent boils and other skin problems. Cracking nuts was supposed to be done before uttering one's first words of the day.

Another custom practiced on the first full moon, Jisinbapgi , involved burning dry grass on ridges between the rice fields while the children ran around with cans with holes filled with burning charcoal in order to fertilize the fields and destroy worms that fed off new rice crops. Another rite, daljiptae-wugi , consisted of burning a "moon house" made of straw to wish for a good harvest. If the wood burned fast, it was believed that the year would be free of problems. Also, the bigger the fire, the better the harvest.

People would also take part in games such as yunnori (a traditional board game with wooden sticks), tuho (arrow throwing), neolttwigi (see-saw jumping), jegichagi (shuttlecock kicking), paengi-chigi (top spinning), ganggang suwollae (a woman's dance in a big circle) and yeon-nallig (kite-flying). Kite flying had a special meaning on Jeongwol Daeboreum Day, as people believed flying kites also helped get rid of all the worries and bad fortune for the year.

Five-grain rice (ogok-bap) is still eaten on this day. In the past, one was expected to eat this dish in a large group of people to ensure good health for the year. The rice was usually accompanied by 9 different dried greens and vegetables (jinchaesik) left over from the year before. It would often be eaten wrapped in roasted laver or leafy greens (bokssam – meaning lucky wrap).

Yaksik (literally medicinal food) which is sweet rice mixed with nuts and dates and was considered a luxury food in the past, which is why most people settled for 5-grain rice. These days, yaksik is available for everyone and is also popular for birthday celebrations and weddings. Gwibalguisul, literally meaning liquor for better hearing, may be drunk on this day as well.


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