21 February 2008

re: 정월대보름 (and other korean holidays)

looks like fun.

today is jeongwol daeboreum (정월대보름), one of korea's 14 traditional holidays. begun 1,000 years prior during the unified shilla period, "daeboreum" means "great full moon" and that's what it celebrates- the lunar year's first full moon. to celebrate, men dressed in traditional hanbok passed out walnuts to the confused foreigners who work at kbs's world service.

why nuts? the tradition holds that cracking them today keeps your skin and teeth healthy all year. beyond nuts, there's the five-grain rice dish appropriately called "ogok-bahp" (오곡밥) and unsafe traditions like climbing ice-clad mountains in the middle of the night to be the first to spy the first moon-rise and giving children holed-cans blazing with charcoal to spin around their heads.

re: unsafe, for the past 11 years, scenic jeju island on korea's south coast has hosted a 3-day daeboreum fire festival. what begins with a torch relay ends in the burning of an 82-acre parasitic volcano. after viewing the following video clips, i think i need to visit next year:

this second clip is over 6 minutes but the end is pretty amazing and scary. since the closing minutes resemble carpet bombing or the end (or beginning?) of the world, it could frighten little children or other fragile beings.

a good example of korea's conspicuous contrasts of old/new, east/west, etc., is the integration of its traditional lunisolar calendar with the "western" gregorian one. the upshot is a lot of holidays- some of which are fixed while others wander. you decide which system deserves which adjective.

it's been a little difficult for me to discern the difference between "official" and "government," "public" or "commemorative" but here's my best estimation of what public offices and most large companies observe:

new year’s day (01/01)
lunar new year (three days around 1st day of the 1st lunar month)
march 1 independence movement memorial, or “3-1 Day” (03/01)
children’s day (05/05)
buddha’s birthday (8th day of 4th lunar month)
memorial day (06/06)
independence/liberation day (08/15)
national foundation day (10/03)
chuseok (three days around 15th day of the 8th lunar month)
christmas (12/25)
and dates of presidential and national assembly elections (varies)

2008 marks the first year that constitution day (07/17) is no longer celebrated, and although hangul day (10/09) was reinstated as a national holiday in 2005 after a 15-year hiatus, it's not a legal day off. parents' day (05/08) is "observed" but not "public", whatever that means. as far as i can tell, labor day (05/01) is the only day with its own law (the labor day act) designating it a mandatory official public holiday applicable to all employers. beyond may 1, however, korean employers are not required to give any public holidays off, and if the special day lands on the weekend, the previous or following weekday isn't offered instead.

1 comment:

sadegh said...

Are you living in seoul?