Everything you need to know about Jeongwol Daeborum – Why Full Moon represent good fortune to Koreans

A picture of the first full moon ceremony_festival in Korea

Celebrating Jeongwol Daeboreum (정월 대보름): The First Full Moon of the Lunar Year

In the previous post, the significance of Seollal,  we discussed the importance of the Lunar year to the Korean people. In this post, we will delve into Jeongwol Daeboreum, which is celebrated as the “First Full Moon of the Lunar Year.” In the past, they say that this was a bigger traditional event than the Seollal!

When is Jeongwol Daeboreum?

So, when is Jeongwol Daeboreum (정월대보름)?

To understand the meaning of Jeongwol Daeboreum, we need to do a little bit of Korean Language 101. ‘

– Boreum’ (보름) which means ‘full moon’ signifies the 15th day of the lunar calendar month. -Dae (대) means big

So.. “Daeboreum” means the largest full moon. Traditionally, the first full moon of the calendar year is regarded as the largest. Therefore, the 15th of January in the lunar calendar is typically seen as the largest full moon and as the Jeongwol Daeboreum.

Why is Jeongwol Daeboreum important?

Jeongwol Daeboreum’s importance is related to the importance Korean people have to the full moon. In Western culture, full moons are often associated with fear and negative events such as deaths, accidents, and illness, including myths of werewolves. Conversely, in Eastern culture, the full moon traditionally symbolizes good fortune.
The moon, affectionately referred to as ‘Dal-nim’ (달님) or ‘Mr. Moon,’ is personified, with prayers offered for a prosperous year. To many Koreans, the moon is seen as a protector, with wives praying for their husbands’ safe return and children praying for their family’s well-being. There are many episodes in K-Drama where people refer to Dal-nim and pray for prosperity.
Jeongwol Daeboreum is a day for praying to the moon for community well-being and prosperity throughout the year. People from all over town would gather around to participate in performances, games, and rituals to celebrate the new year’s first full moon.

What did people do on Jeongwol Daeboreum?

Jeongwol Daeboreum, unlike the more nuclear family-focused Seollal, is a festival for the entire town, involving activities on a much larger scale. The festival unites people as one heart.

A key event is ‘Daljib burning,’ a tradition that continues today, symbolizing the burning away of bad spirits and misfortunes to ensure a prosperous year ahead. Townspeople gather wood and branches to create a large bonfire, illuminating the darkness. The term “Daljib” combines “moon” and “house,” signifying a structure enveloping the moon. The preparation for this ritual begins about a week before the 15th day of the lunar month.

Jeongwol Daeboreum weaves a vibrant thread through Korea’s culture, celebrating the lunar year’s first full moon.

A picture of the first full moon ceremony_festival in Korea

Traditions and Celebrations

Jeongwol Daeboreum’s rich customs include:

  • Bureom: Consuming nuts for health.
  • Ogokbap: Five-grain rice for prosperity.
  • Yaksik: Sweet rice with herbs for nutrition.
  • Gwibalgisul: Wine for enhancing hearing.
  • Seasonal Foods: Such as dried seaweed and fresh fish, aligning with nature.

The festival also features traditional games and activities like kite flying and stone fighting, fostering community unity. It’s a time for setting yearly plans and fortune-telling.

Modern Observance and Cultural Significance

Though not a public holiday in South Korea, Jeongwol Daeboreum’s significance persists, especially in rural areas committed to traditional customs.

Jeongwol Daeboreum bridges Korea’s past and present, offering a pause to appreciate nature, culture, and community bonds. It reminds us of the value of tradition amidst the pace of modern life, inviting us to partake in a celebration that honors the moon’s beauty, the promise of a new year, and the enduring Korean spirit.

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