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Daeboreum Gifts

Yesterday was Jeongwol Daeboreum. I received a nice surprise when I came in to work, as our academy vice-director had brought in peanuts for all of the teachers. In addition to that, she also had a few packets of nut-flavored soy milk that she gave out to a few of the students who came early for class. Many of them are young enough where they didn't understand the significance of it though, which meant they got a quick lesson on the customs of Daeboreum.

Meanwhile, on my way home from work I encountered one of our academy's students buying a box of satsuma oranges (귤; gyul) with her mother. After a brief conversation, the street vendor - who had been listening in - complimented me on my Korean and asked if I knew what special day it was. When I gave Daeboreum as an answer he immediately broke into a smile and gave me a handful of peanuts from a sack he'd brought with him.

Last night I also received a text message from a middle-aged Korean woman I recently met:

오늘은 정월 대보름 입니다. 일년 중 첫번째 뜨는 보름달입니다. 우리는 보름달을 보고 소원을 비는풍습이 있지요. 보름달을 보고 소원을 빌면 소원이 이루어 진대요. 소원 빌어 봇...

Translated, it mentions that today is the first full moon of the new lunar year and refers to the custom of people going out to look for the full moon in order to make a wish. I didn't notice this custom in either Seasonal Customs of Korea (2007) or Annual Customs of Korea (1983) so it was interesting to hear about it from someone who grew up in the area.

I also met a friend for lunch the day before and part of our conversation involved how busy her mother has been recently. It turns out that she's been making five-grain rice (오곡밥; ogokbap) for members of their family to eat on Daeboreum. When I asked my friend about yakshik she said that her mom used to make it but doesn't anymore because it ends up being too expensive. I didn't have any ogokbap or yakshik for Daeboreum, although I might have gone out looking for some if I hadn't fallen asleep as soon as I got home from work.

However, I did have some black soybeans (검은콩; geomeunkong) - used to make ogokbap - for dinner last night, as they were included as a side dish (반찬) with our dinners.

오곡밥 ingredents, from here. The site also contains a recipe (in Korean) on how to make 오곡밥.

One Daeboreum-related activity that I did do yesterday was bridge walking. Annual Customs of Korea calls it Dari balgi while Seasonal Customs of Korea has it Romanized as Dari-bapgi. Why the difference? Well, the Korean word for this custom is 다리 밟기, with ㄹ often transliterated as [l] or [r] and ㅂ transliterated as [b] or [p]. So in a way I guess they're both somewhat correct? I wonder if the difference comes from how dialects pronounce the term differently. (i.e., in one dialect the ㄹ might be more muted while the same could hold true for ㅂ in another dialect.)

Anyway, I'll rely on Seasonal Customs of Korea to offer a description of the custom:

On the way to greeting the moon, it was common to cross over at least one bridge to get across a stream, which led to the custom of dari-bapgi (bridge crossing). From the Goryeo period, it was believed that if you crossed over 12 bridges on the night of Daeboreum, you would be able to avoid misfortune during the 12 months of the year. Over the centuries. bridge crossing became popular among young and old, men and women, as well as commoner and noble. In fact, it became so popular it brought out too many people on this night, which forced the Joseon king Jungjong to outlaw the practice.

And for a bit more history, this comes from Annual Customs of Korea:

According to Yi Shwu-gwang's book, Jibong-yuseol, the custom of bridge walking on the first full moon night started during the Goryeo Dynasty and on this night, men and women in couples walked the streets all night and the street was so crowded that women's bridge walking on this night was prohibited and women did it on the following night (of the 16th day). By this we can see how popular this custom was then.

During the Yi [Joseon] Dynasty, some noble classes disliked the confusion of the crowd of commoners and they did their bridge walking on the eve of the full moon day and this was called the noble's bridge walking (yangban dari-balgi). After the middle of the dynasty (when the custom of women's confinement grew), women's bridge walking gradually declined.

The connection between walking on bridges and receiving good health comes from the Korean words for leg and bridge being the same (다리). Annual Customs of Korea refers to this as an example of "word-disease relation", which is an intriguing concept that I would like to know more about.

Apparently the Gwangtong Bridge (광통교) along Chunggyecheon in Seoul had a festival for bridge walking two years ago. You can check out some photos from the event here courtesy of 라니라니. I live next to a stream (Jungnangcheon, which passes through Uijeongbu) and use either a bridge or stepping stones to get to work every day. As a result, it was pretty easy for me to cross back and forth enough times to ensure good health over the next twelve months. Let's hope that's really the case!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 18th, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC)
To be honest I'm not really sure. Crossing over one bridge is supposed to offer some protection against foot/leg afflictions and crossing over twelve is obviously much better, though whether you can count the same bridge multiple times is not something I can answer. :D

After all, if you cross a bridge going one way there's a strong chance you'll be crossing a (the same?) bridge when you come back.
Feb. 26th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
Very fascinating reports on Korean customs; please keep it up!

Do you know the 漢字 for this holiday in Korean?

For Chinese, it's 上元節/元宵節, originally and still a major Daoist holiday. It's the commemoration of 上元天官, where blessings are asked for the coming year. Pacification of 太歲爺 is performed, and there are alot of young lovers' customs in China for the day, 五穀 too... It's supposed to be a good day for a girl to find her groom, etc.
Feb. 28th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoy reading about Korean customs! I'll try to include more information in the future whenever I can.

As for the Korean holidays name in 漢子, a quick Google search did yield a site that calls it 上元節食 - though that appears to be an older name that I haven't heard anyone use. The mixed script 正月大보름 seems to be the most popular depiction of it. I did find another page that features a Korean asking the same question. The response is that boreum (보름) is a 'pure' Korean word rather than one borrowed from Chinese, so the closest equivalent in 漢子 is 正月大滿月.

One of my books about Korean customs does mention a connection to Daoism, though only in a generalized manner:

Daeboreum has at various times also been called Sangwon, Wonseok, Wonso, Wonya, and Deungjeol. Sangwon is one of the three important holidays in Taoism, along with Jugnwon, the 15th day of the seventh month, and Hawon, the 15th day of the tenth month. Sangwon was the day the Tao god delivered his blessings, so followers conducted rituals to their ancestors.
Oct. 10th, 2012 07:00 am (UTC)
I've always been fond of Korean dishes. They are so healthy and tasteful.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )