A day to howl?

Today is 대보름 (Daeboreum) – literally “Great full moon”.

It’s Full Moon Day! my colleague informed me as she reached me a handful of peanuts. I’m not sure how I missed this last year (probably too sick – damn these allergies!), but apparently it’s one of five traditional holidays in Korea. There are celebrations the night before the first full moon of the (lunar) new year, where they dance around naked and perform sacrifices on bonfires. No, not really – but you’d have believed me, wouldn’t you? In fact, they do make bonfires and Catherine wheels out of the dried grass between rice fields, and play traditional games. I wish I’d known about this in advance and I would’ve tried to find out if there were any local celebrations I could have watched. Still, there’s always next year.

On the day itself, Koreans… eat peanuts. Not the salted or honey roast varieties, of course (and they happen to be the only kinds I like), but peanuts from their shells – we always called them monkey nuts, for some reason, so when I hear “peanuts” I automatically think of the wrong thing. This always ends in disappointment.

Have some peanuts!

Oh, yes please! [face falls in disappointment as hands are filled with monkey nuts]

I can’t eat them. I chew and chew and chew, and my mouth becomes drier and drier as they absorb all available saliva to the point where swallowing the chewed-up, mushy, tasteless mess is a physical impossibility.

Of course, today would not be the time to mention this to my colleagues and students, and so there is a small and troublesome mountain of monkey nuts sitting on my desk. It is customary to routinely crack them with your teeth throughout this day, as it will ensure that you have healthy skin and teeth for the next year. Erm, OK. Still, it’s better than the other food-related tradition, which is the belief that if your pet dog has a meal on Full Moon Day, he will contract gad flies and become ill during the summer. So, yes, the pooches of Korea have to go without food today! :(

All over Korea, people will be climbing mountains this evening – in the snow! – in a bid to be the first person to see the rise of the moon and therefore have good luck all year.

I think I’ll just hope for the best.

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