First full moon of the year 정월대보름

Koreans celebrate the first full moon of the year which is January 15th in lunar calendar. It is called 정월대보름. 정월 means January, 대 means ‘big’ and 보름 means ’15th day’. Because we can see a full moon on the 15th of every month in lunar calendar, we call a full moon ‘보름달(the moon on the 15th).

On 정월대보름, there are a lot of things to do. We make a lot of 나물(Na-mool : vegetable dishes) with dried vegetable for winter and make 오곡밥(O-gok-bop : rice with 5 grains) and drink 귀밝이술(Gui-bahl-ghi-sool : traditional alcohol drink) to hope we hear good news for the year.

image from: 정월대보름 유래 정월대보름오곡밥 만드는법 찰밥.. : 네이버블로그 (
image from: o’mycook table : 네이버 블로그 (

In early morning on 정월대보름, we crack hard nuts like pine nuts, walnuts or peanuts and throw them outside while we say “부스럼”. 부스럼 is a small pocket of pus on skin. Old Korean hoped not to get this skin disease to crack these nuts and throw them away. These nuts are called 부럼.

And on 정월대보름, when we say “내 더위 사 가라(Buy my heat)” to the first person who we see in order to not to be sick by heat in summer. And the person who hear this can response “니 더위, 내 더위, 맞더위(your heat, my heat, it is even)”. It is a funny joke to greet a person in the morning this day.

At night, in the past, people played 쥐불놀이(Gee-bool-no-ri : set fire on the farm field) in order to burn the field after harvest and chase out rats and also people wished on the first full moon(달맞이).

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In modern days, many Koreans don’t celebrate as much as old Koreans, but we still make food and wish on the moon. Did you wish on the full moon? What was your wish?

새해 복 많이 받으세요! Happy New Year!

For Koreans, Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year. For Lunar New Year, we take three days off to see family and relatives. The holiday begins a day before Seollal(설날 New Year’s Day) and ends a day after New Year’s Day. A day before New Year’s Day, we go to our oldest uncle’s house(father side) where usually is held a ceremonial event. On this day, we make tons of food for the ceremony like Namool(vegetable side dishes), Mandoo(dumplings), Dduckguk(rice cake soup) and many more. All of this food is served on a big table in early morning of New Year’s Day for a traditional ceremony.

This ceremony is for our ancestors. In early morning on New Year’s Day, we write our ancestors names on a piece of paper and put it on the table as well as the food. And we bow to our ancestors to appreciate what they did for us. After the ceremony, we can have the delicious food for breakfast!!!!!!

Dduckguk is the most important food on New Year’s Day. Dduck(떡) is rice paste and guk(국) is soup. The rice paste for Dduckguk originally looks like a long tube, and we call it Gah-rae Dduck(가래떡). We slice 가래떡 into thin pieces to make the soup. Because 가래떡 is long and white, Dduckguk(떡국) represents longevity and pureness. Thus, we say that we get one year older after eating one bowl of Dduckguk for breakfast on New Year’s Day. (I wanted to stop eating Dduckguk after I turned 20. Haha!)

After the big breakfast, children give their parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents New Year’s bow(Sebe세배). When we give older generation Sebe, we say 새해 복 많이 받으세요! (Hope you have a lot of luck on new year). And older generation give them hopeful wishes and pretty silk pockets (Bok Joomoney 복주머니). As you can guess, there is money inside of the Bok Joomoney. We call this money as Sebetdon(세뱃돈). When I was a kid, I gave all of this money to my mom because my mom said that she will keep the money for my future. I haven’t seen that money since then, but I guess it is already in my stomach as food. 🙂

In the afternoon, we play Yootnori(윷놀이) which is a traditional game with four wooden sticks. It is very simple, and all of the family can play together, so I really liked it when I was a kid. For lunch, we put all the vegetable side dishes in a big bowl together with Gochujang(고추장), make Bibimbop(비빔밥). I really miss my aunts Bibimbop!!! There are always some special programs on TV for New Year’s Day like Ssirum(씨름, Korean wrestling) or new movies. We only had one TV at our uncle’s house, and we didn’t have the Internet, so I REALLY didn’t like Ssirum(씨름) because that was my dad’s and uncles’ favorite TV program. 🙂

After lunch, we usually go to my mom’s side of family. Very fortunately, my parents’ families live close enough, we could do this in one day. And on New Year’s Day, Seoul became a ghost city because a lot of people go to their hometown a day before. We do the same thing with my mom’s side of family, but my mom’s side of family loves singing, so we always have singing contest after dinner.

A day after New Year’s Day, my family usually took a hike on a mountain near my house, or I went shopping with my siblings and friends while everyone else rush back to their house from their hometown. The highway has huge traffic, so my family usually didn’t drive anywhere else a day after New Year’s Day. From Busan to Seoul, it usually takes 4 or 5 hours on a car, but on this day, it sometimes takes 15 hours!!!!

I don’t live in Korea anymore, so I really miss these memories. I am a terrible cook, but this year I made Dduckguk and egg battered fish for myself. I hope we all healthy and happy, Happy New Year to everyone!

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

추석 Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving

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추석(Chuseok) is one of the most important holidays for Korean along with 설날(Seollal). The word Chuseok means ‘a Fall night’ which expresses ‘A day that has the brightest moon in  Fall’. Chuseok is derived from Chinese letters, and the Korean word for Chuseok is 한가위(Han-gahWe). Han-gahwe means ‘The center of the month’ because Han-gahwe is August 15th on the Lunar Calendar. It is Korean Thanksgiving.

It is a national holiday which everyone take 3 days off. The holiday starts a day before Han-gahwe and ends a day after Han-gahwe because families have to prepare food for a ceremony in early morning on the holiday.

For food, they make a special rice cake for this holiday which is called 송편(Songpyoun). Songpyoun is a rice cake that is steamed with pine leaves, and it looks like a half moon(반달). Why does it look like a half moon even thought they celebrate for a full moon? Old Koreans hoped their lives would be filled with happiness like a full moon(보름달) from the half moon after the holiday, not like the full moon becomes smaller after the holiday.

At night, Koreans pray to a full moon for their happiness and health and appreciate mother nature for food. In the past, women went out with their female family members or neighbors dancing a special dance and singing for Han-gahwe. It is called 강강술래(Gahng Gahng Soollae).

<강강술래(Gahng Gahng Soollae) dance
image courtesy of;


If you have Korean friends, tell them “Happy Chuseok!”.  즐거운 추석 보내세요! 즐거운 한가위 보내세요!


Words for Chuseok>

추석 Chuseok
한가위 Han-gahwe
송편 Songpyoun
보름달 full moon
반달  half moon
강강술래 (Gahng-Gahng Soollae)
즐거운 추석 보내세요!  Happy Chuseok!
즐거운 한가위 보내세요!  Happy Han-gahwe!

You can listen to the audio files by clicking here. 



초복, 중복, 말복 The hottest days!!!

초복(Chobok:初伏), 중복(Joongbok:中伏), 말복(Mahlbok:末伏) are known for three hottest days of the lunar calendar and we call these days 삼복(三伏) which means three hottest days in Korean.   means ‘beginning’, means ‘middle’ and means ‘end’, so 초복 is ‘the beginning of a hot summer’, 중복 is ‘the middle of a hot summer’ and ‘말복’ is ‘the end of a hot summer.

on 복날[봉날](the day of 초복, 중복 or 말복), we usually eat 삼계탕(Sam-gye-tang:hot chicken Ginseng soup) or 초계탕(Cho-gye-tang:cold chicken soup).  A HOT SOUP on a HOT DAY????   It sounds crazy, but it is a scientific fact.  When you eat hot food, you will sweat a lot.  After you sweat, your body temperature drops, so your body becomes cool!  There is a saying that explains this idea, which is 이열치열(Fight fire with fire:以熱治熱).

삼계탕 Sam-gye-tang


초복 is 7/16, 중복 is 7/27 and 말복 is 8/16 in 2016.

Let’s go eat 삼계탕 or 초계탕!!!


초계탕 Cho-gye-tang

제사 The Commemorative Ceremony

The commemorative ceremony is one of the most important rites for Korean family.  It usually takes 30 mins to an hour, but it depends on family members.

<The order of the ceremonial food>
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We prepare the best food for them because we believe that spirits really come to have the food.  There are usually apples, pears, meat, soup, rice, fish, chestnuts and jujubes etc, but it depends on family.  One of the funny thing is that after the ceremony, we take a little of every food and take them outside for stranger spirits(??) who don’t have family to have a ceremony for them.  Traditionally only men can perform the commemorative ceremony, but my family women also join the ceremony.

There are three kinds of the ceremony.

1. 제사[Jesa] is usually for dead people who were in your family such as great grand parents, grand parents, parents or brother and sister. It is held every year at night on the day when they died, so it is particularly for a person.  My family have four ceremonies per year for my great grand parents and grand parents.

2. 차례[Chare] is for ancestors including family members who died, but it is held in the early morning on Seollal and Choosuk which are New year’s day(January 1st of the Lunar Calendar) and Thanksgiving day(August 15th of the Lunar Calendar).  This is for thanking to ancestors to let us have a great year and for hoping that they take care of us.  The food will be similar to 제사, however we put ‘떡국(rice cake soup)’ on Seollal.



3. 고사[Gosa] is held on the day when people start their business, when they move to a new house, when they buy a new car or when farmers start harvesting.  It can be held in the morning, afternoon or night.  The food is mostly the same as other ceremony, but there is one more thing which is “PIG HEAD”.  In Korea, pigs mean ‘fortune’ or ‘wealth’, so people put a pig head as a sacrificial offering to hope that ancestors protect them from the bad luck and the evil spirit.

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