February 15th, 2011

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Holiday Week: Valentine's Day and Daeboreum

As I'm sure many of you know, Valentine's Day took place on Monday this week. While it's true that the observance of Valentine's Day (밸런타인데이) is different in Korea than it is in most of North American and Western Europe it's not really a subject that I considered writing about. I did, however, receive chocolate from a few of my female students today and told them that I would reciprocate on White Day.

Instead, there is another holiday this week that I am looking forward to with much more interest: Jeongwol Daeboreum (정월 대보름), which is a festival to celebrate the first full moon in the lunar year. I've written about Daeboreum in the past - here and here - and asked a few of my students what they had planned for the day. Despite having a few anonymous commenters on my blog claim that Korean traditional customs are 'all dead' it seems the news hasn't filtered through to Uijeongbu just yet. While the majority of my students weren't planning to do anything special for Daeboreum a few said their parents had recently bought a lot of nuts in relation to the holiday.

Walnuts (호두) and peanuts (땅콩) for sale in downtown Uijeongbu

Go back a few centuries and fresh fruits and vegetables were hard to come by during the winter months; as a result, nuts were consumed as a healthy alternative. What I found particularly interesting though was the news that several of my students intended to participate in a Daljip Taeugi (달집태우기) ceremony. This event is one of the more visible aspects of Daeboreum and involves assembling a tower of pine branches or straw bundles that is used to make a bonfire when night falls.

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