On the eve of Daeboreum, the first full moon of the lunar year, the markets are full of foodstuffs associated with the festival such as peanuts, walnuts, red beans, millet and wild vegetables. The signature dish for the festival, which falls this Thursday, is ogokbap or five different kinds of grain -- rice, millet, red beans and beans.
Choi Myung-lim, a curator at the National Folk Museum of Korea, says some farmers include any crop they grow, since that augurs well for a good harvest of it. People shared ogokbap with neighbors because they believed that eating the ogokbap of more than three households would bring them luck throughout a year.
According to the Korean Almanac, a book on the changing seasons and customs of Korea, ogokbap also has a healing effect for children. If their skin turns dark and they lose weight in spring affected by the change of the season, having them share ogokbap gathered from 100 homes in the neighborhood with a dog will solve the problem -- child and dog should sit face to face and take turns having a spoonful of the dish.
After they eat their ogokbap in the morning, people give it to cattle together with wild vegetables. At that time, it is said, if the cattle eat the ogokbap first, it will be a fat year, and if the cows eat the wild vegetables first, it will be a lean year. Another saying recommends eating ogokbap nine times a day, implying the importance of hard work.
On the morning of Daeboreum, Koreans practice the custom of cracking different kinds of nuts such as chestnuts, walnuts, gingko nuts, pine nuts and peanuts.
What significance does this custom have? Koreans in old times believed that cracking as many nuts as their age in the morning of Daeboreum prevented them from suffering skin trouble like boils and gave them good teeth.
Cho Hoo-jong, a former professor of the Department of Food and Nutrition at Myongji University, said people in the old days practiced the custom to supplement the vitamins and minerals that had been lacking during winter when fresh vegetables and fruit were not available.