Dongji (Winter Solstice)

Patjuk (red bean porridge) is widely  eaten on Dongji in Korea
Patjuk (red bean porridge) is widely eaten on Dongji (Credit)

Dongji (Winter Solstice) is a celebration of the longest night of the year that gradually leads to longer days which in turn leads to the coming of spring.

Dongji falls on December 21 or December 22. On this day, daylight hours are the shortest of the year. From this day on, the hours of daylight begin to increase and hours of darkness get shorter.

One tradition popular on this day is to eat patjuk (red bean porridge) together as a family. This porridge is made using red beans and rice flour dumplings known as saealshim. Eating patjuk symbolizes the beginning of a new year and those who eat it grow older by a year.

Another popular custom on the winter solstice is to give calendars as gifts to others. This tradition dates back to the Joseon Dynasty days when kings would distribute calendars to their government officials. Only the king had the power to distribute calendars.

A myth says that if the weather is cold on Dongji, then the upcoming harvest will be bountiful. On the other end, if the weather is warm, the upcoming year will bring bad luck, adversity, and disease. It is also believed that sprinkling red beans around ones home will keep away evil spirits.

Although not as widely celebrated as Chuseok or Seollal, you can still find Dongji related events and celebrations. Visitors to the Namsangol Hanok Village can enjoy a bowl of patjuk.