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Daeboreum - First Full Moon Festival

Daeboreum - First Full Moo...

Daeboreum (대보름) which means Great Full Moon in Korea celebrates the first full moon of the new year of the lunar calendar – the 15th day of the first month of the lunar new year.

Daeboreum Activities:
Historically, on the night before, farmers burned the dry grass 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 was to get rid of insects that would destroy new crops that would soon be planted, children had 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. (Check What’s Going On early in the new year for details). 

People, in the past and still today, will climb mountains to catch the rising of the first full moon of the year (lunar year). It was said that the first person to see the moon rise will have good luck all year.

Daeboreum Foods:
(오곡밥), a five-"grain" rice consisting of rice, millet, Indian millet, beans, and red beans, is traditionally served on Daeboreum morning, along with various dried herbs.  Yaksik (약식) is one of the days’ special treats. It’s made of glutinous rice, chestnuts, pinenuts, honey, sauce, and sesame oil. Yaksik was a real treat and not available to everyone because the ingredients were expensive and difficult to get for most. (O = five / gok = grains and beans / bap = cooked rice.)

Farmers would often share ogokbap with their neighbours in the belief that sharing the food with at least 3 households would bring luck throughout the year. After they ate their ogokbap in the morning, farmers would give some to their cattle, along with wild vegetables. It’s said that if the animals ate the rice first, it would be a prosperous year, but if they went first for the vegetables, it would be a lean year.

Bureom is a word generally referring to the various kinds of nuts that people eat on the morning of Daeboreum, such as walnuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, and peanuts. After cracking a few with their teeth and throwing them over the roof shouting `Bureom, get out! `, people eat a number of nuts equal to their own age. In the past, people would crack the nuts with their teeth – a ritual, it was said, that would help keep one’s teeth healthy for the year and prevent skin problems such as boils, etc.. Needless to say, that is no longer a common Daeboreum practice. However, nuts are still a part of the festivities and, in fact, were a healthy way to make up for the lack of fresh vegetables and fruits during winter.

Gwibalgi-sul,  literal translation `ear clearing cool wine`,  is taken when eating nuts. In the past, people believed that by drinking this particular wine they would avoid  earaches that year and improve their hearing so that wouldn't miss any good news.

 Injolmi is a kind of rice cake made by beating steamed glutinous rice until it is sticky, cutting it into square pieces and covering it with bean flour. 

Prior to Daeboreum (between lunar new year and the 15th day of the first month), stores/shops will stock a range of foods associated with the festival, such as peanuts, walnuts, red beans, millet and wild vegetables. There are gift sets available that are made up of various kinds of nuts and grains.

Daeboreum Legend:
Legend has it 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.

K4E Editor's Note: Korea4Expats.com wants to provide the most accurate and complete information possible so if you noticed any errors or omissions on this page, please let us know at info@korea4expats.com

Last Updated on 2011-02-12

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