Daeboreum (literally “Great Full Moon”), March 5th this year, is the first full moon after lunar New Year (Feb. 19). In Korea's farming past, it was a day traditionally used to get the fields ready for spring.
For our family, Daeboreum was extra special this year.
Like many seasonal holidays in Korea, Daeboreum is rich with spiritual and practical traditions. Korean farmers burned the dry grass on ridges between rice fields while children whirled around cans full of holes, filled with burning charcoal.
Burning the grass and charcoal helped fertilize the soil, getting rid of harmful worms that might destroy the coming year’s crops. Other traditions include the custom of cracking nuts with your teeth, which is believed to help keep your teeth healthy for the year.
Couldn't hurt, I guess.
In the countryside, people climb mountains in the cold early spring night air, trying to catch the first glimpse of the moonrise. It is said that the first person to see the moon will have good luck all year or their wishes will come true.
Hwagyesa Temple is a beautiful mountainside oasis near Suyu Station on the #4 subway line in the center of the city. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, it seems far away from the urban hustle and bustle.
Still, most people attending the Daeboreum festival at Hwagyesa were Seoulites with modern urban lives, not farmers of old worried about the health of their crops.
So instead of burning the weeds and rice straw to fertilize the fields for the coming planting season, they burn papers with wishes written on them for good things to come into their lives through the year.
After singing, dancing, a fire show and other festivities, the ceremonial procession from the temple went through the crowd outside, carrying flames to light the bonfire under the full moon sky.