Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rites de passage of spring and full moon

Korea is covered with snow, temperatures have gripped both the bodies and minds of everyone in the country. Even the thickest clothes flutter in the icy wind. But premature as it may seem, the bright sunlight and crisp air, forbid spring. And the lunar calendar confirms that “Ipchun,” the first day of spring, falls on Saturday.

“Daeborum,” the first full moon of the lunar calendar, follows two days later. Already the moon is fattening itself up in preparation for the traditional festivities.

The first day of spring is traditionally, celebrated with “ipchuncheop,” a handwritten poster with greetings for the change in seasons and good wishes. The most common phrases include “ip-chun-dae-gil,” or “may the coming of spring be blessed with great happiness,” and “geon-yang-da-gyeong,” which is roughly translated to “great news and good luck will take place in the new year.”

The full moon was an important event during the agricultural period. Festivities included bonfires in the fields and smaller fires inside a can. The latter would be attached to a string and swung around. Following tradition, food is offered to the gods of the land.

The food is a great part of the ritual. So-called ear-quickening wine and a variety of nuts are served. The former is actually just “cheongju,” a clear rice wine, which takes a special moniker out of the belief that when drunk chilled, it would heighten one’s sense of hearing for the entire year. Cracking nuts in one’s mouth is associated with good health. Finally, steamed rice with mixed grains is served to wish for a fruitful year.

The National Folk Museum is going to host some of the traditions on the two dates. Fifteen different programs are on offer, including food and beverages.

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