December 22, 2011 10:20
Winter is known to offer the shortest hours of daylight of all four seasons, and this year Thursday marks the winter solstice, or dongji in Korean, when the sun rises and sets the fastest.
"Because the days start getting longer after the winter solstice, it used to be seen as marking the day when the sun returns to its full strength," said Im Jang-hyeok, professor of Korean Folklore at Chungang University.
"Just as, according to the ancient lunar calendar, the winter solstice marked the beginning of the New Year, so dongji is widely accepted as the start of a new cycle."
Koreans traditionally celebrate this day by sharing a steaming bowl of red bean porridge with their family and neighbors. The healthy dish full of vitamins is made by slowly boiling the red beans and adding round rice dumplings made of glutinous rice flour.
"The red color of the porridge was thought to be able to dispel evil spirits, so it became a tradition to eat this on the winter solstice," said Park Su-hwan, a researcher at the National Folk Museum of Korea.
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