Ancient Traditions Persist on 1st Full Moon of Lunar New Year

Monday marks Daeboreum, the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, which Koreans consider as important as New Year's Day itself.

Koreans observe this festive day with a variety of folk events and games. There are 192 seasonal customs in Korea, and over a quarter are practiced around this day.

These include: ganggangsullae, a circle dance symbolizing unity and cooperation between people; jwibul-nori, a traditional game that involves spinning a tin with fire inside to wish for a good harvest; bridge-crossing, a rite where people cross a bridge once for every year of their lives to guard against afflictions of the legs; and the burning of small effigies called Daljib, or "Moon Houses," made of wooden twigs wrapped with handwritten wishes calling for good luck and good health.

Each region also has its own traditions. Some villages hold rituals to pray to the earth goddess for an abundant harvest, while others stage rope-pulling battles at night.

For instance, in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, the town prepares for a huge tug-of-war by dividing into two hemispheres -- East and West -- symbolized by teams of men and women. It is believed that a victory by the women's team heralds a good harvest in the year ahead.

According to Chosun-era literature on seasonal customs, on the day of the first full moon of the lunar year, people would stay up all night with their houses illuminated by lamps, similar to how they spent New Year's Eve.

Certain pockets of the country still continue this tradition. In South Jeolla Province, people light up their houses and boats from the eve of the full moon to wish for good fortune. In Gyeonggi and North Chungcheong provinces, people refuse to sleep on the eve of the full moon as superstition has it that doing so will turn their eyebrows gray.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 06, 2012 10:49 KST