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Daeborum: The First Full Moon Day
'Talmaji' -'viewing of the moon' Because on this day the moon is full, it is a day for driving away misfortune and evil. That is why the food that is eaten and the games that are played on this very day have a hidden purpose of expelling misfortune and evil. 'Jongwol' means 'the first of the month' and 'Dae' means 'big' in Korean. And "Borum' means 'round moon' or 'full moon'. Jongwol Taeborum is the first full moon that rises on the first month of every lunar year. In other words, it is the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar.
Jongwol Daeborum is one of the Korean holidays that has been observed since the times of the Shilla Dynasty. There are various things that are done and even more things that are eaten on Jongwol Daeborum.
First, people wake up early morning and give kwibalgi sul to the elders in the family. This custom is kept alive in the hope that it will sharpen the elders' ears and they hear good news throughout the year.
Peanuts, walnuts, chestnuts etc. are eaten on arising early in the morning. They must eat as many nuts as the number of years they have lived. This custom is called 'Burom Kkada'. It is said you must not speak before you finish eating the nuts. 'Burom' is the hard rind or shell of the fruits such as the ones of walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, etc. It is also the abbreviation of the word 'busurom' which is a skin trouble that appears on the face. These days there is plenty of food so there are not many people with 'busurom', but in the old days there was not an abundancy of food so there were many people suffering from this facial skin disease due to malnutrition. There are ten times more nutrients in peanuts and walnuts than in rice, which is why if you feed these nuts to children from an early age you can prevent them from getting skin diseases for one year. The wisdom of our ancestors is uncomparable. If you follow the 'burom kkagi' tradition you will not get skin diseases for a whole year. And since 'burom kkagi' is a very noisy process(?) it is said that the evil spirits and demons become scared and run away at the sound of the loud cracking noises. In addition, another of the purposes of this custom is to strengthen the teeth.
In the morning of Jongwol Daeborum, there is another custom called 'Towi palgi'. 'Towi palgi' is the custom of 'selling one's heat to another person'. This is the way to do it. On the morning of Jongwol Taeborum, you wake up in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rises and go to your friend's house and call him. If your friend answers it is said that your friend has 'bought your heat'. Since your friend has 'bought your heat' your friend will suffer twice as much heat that particular summer. And the person who has 'sold his heat' will not suffer from heat at all that year. But if your friend tactfully says " buy my heat" instead of responding to your call, you will end up 'buying your friend's heat'. That is why on the morning of Jongwol Daeborum, many times people will pretend not to know you and will not respond when you call their names. Since Daeborum is a holiday that is situated at the end of the harsh winters, it purports the sincere wish of our ancestors of driving away the upcoming summer heat.
Why do Koreans put such importance on the first full moon of the lunar year?
In the old times, our ancestors considered the full moon a mysterious occurrence. They were especially excited on the night of the full moon on viewing a pale full moon. That is why they considered more precious the first full moon of the lunar year and therefore called it 'Taeborum' (Big moon). At night, people climb the top of a mountain at the rear of the village and do the 'Talmaji' or 'viewing of the moon'. On Jongwold Daeborum it is said that if you say your wishes for that year, they will come true. It is also said that the first person to see the full moon will be blessed with more luck than the others which is why people compete to be the first to climb the highest place and view the moon.
This custom of 'talmaji' started because since old times Koreans worshipped and considered the full moon as a light that drove away darkness, an object that represented and promised the realization of their desire for a brighter world.
As you all remember during Chusuk, a holiday that we have introduced above, we also made wishes at the moon. Also, peasants were told their fortunes while viewing the first full moon. The moonlight rays of the full moon would differ according to the different locations where it was viewed? If the moonlight was white, it meant that heavy rains would fall, if it was red, it meant that there would be droughts, if it was grey it meant that it would be a year of famine, if it was thick(strong) and visible it meant that it would be a year of abundance.
When the next Jongwol Daeborum comes around, make a wish. The ancestors that have listened to the wishes of our ancestors will surely listen to yours.
The people who do 'talmaji' also enjoy themselves with games.
First, they make a 'taljip'. 'Taljip' is a small wooden house that is built on top of a hill before 'talmaji'. This is made with wrapped up extra flammable wood. They say that the wood has to burn easily so that the problems of that village will solve easily. If the 'taljib' caught on fire, they lighted and burned the fields.
This is called 'jwibulnori'.
Our ancestors believed that if you did 'jwibulnori' you could prevent the spread of diseases and misfortune.
On this day, when the full moon appears, the village children would gather in the front of the village with torch lights and tincans. They would then perforate many holes on the tincans and tie the two sides handles with a long wire.
They would proceed to put a some kind of wood or a pine needle that would burn for a long time, and whirl the tincan round and round in the air. Children would go around the dry fields and rice paddies banks and start burning the dry grass. The purpose of this custom was also to kill the mice from the mice holes and to exterminate the insects that infested the dry fields. You could tell the fortunes of every village according to the size of the 'jwibul' fires in other words, if the village would suffer a year of famine or enjoy a year of abundance which is why villages would compete to light a bigger fire. They believed that the rats of the village who won the competition would run away to the village of the ones who lost it, and therefore the former village's crops would not suffer any damage.
Apart from all these customs, there is another one called 'daribalki'. 'Daribalki' is the custom of 'stepping on bridges' on the night of Taeborum. It is believed that if you cross a large bridge as many times as the years of your age, you will not suffer from any disease for a whole year and you will get healthier. That is why on the night of Taeborum, the bridges are filled with people who want to 'step on bridges'. Besides all these games, there are many other games such as Chajun game, Turtle's game etc.
There are special meals that are eaten on Jonwol Daeborum. They are 'Okokbap' and the 9 types of pickled (seasoned) herbs. Okokbap is a glutinous rice cooked with millet, red beans, sorghum and large beans. This was eaten with side dishes made up of the nine marinated seasoned herbs.When autumn arrived, the mothers would trim and cook vegetables such as pumpkins, eggplants, groundsel, dried radish leaves, etc. and would dry them during the winter. Then when it was Daeborum they would boil these dried vegetables and fry them in oil.
Now you can buy these vegetables in the market or department store. If you eat these vegetables it is said that you will not suffer from the heat for a year. However, it is also said that the custom of eating these vegetables as side dishes on Daeborum is a way to revive (rekindle) the appetite that has been lost during the winter.