Dano, Spring Festival (June 16, 2010)

"A scenery on Dano day" by Shin Yunbok (circa 1805), public domain

Today is Dano in South Korea–a traditional spring festival holiday that falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. (The holiday is an official one for North Korea.)

Several components went into celebrating Dano. It was believed that all of the energies of nature converged into one on this day. And, it was believed that Dano was an easy day for young people to fall passionately in love. Given that belief, parts of the Dano celebrations were built around attracting the opposite gender. Women would pout on their beautiful hanboks and swing to get the attention of the men. The men would participate in ssireum (traditional Korean wrestling) to show their strength to the women.

In addition to that Dano was the beginning of the rainy and hot season in Korea, which in ancient times was also the time many diseases were spread. So hygiene and warding off evil spirits also played a part in the Dano, and irises were used to ward off the spirits (the women washed their hair in iris water, while men would wear irises on their trousers). Plus, like Chuseok and Seollal, it involved an ancestral ceremony and prayers for a good harvest.

In addition to the swinging for women, which they do standing up in the swing, and wrestling for the men, other traditional activities on Dano included mask dances and mask dramas. Traditional foods were rice cake made with wormwood, as well as other rice cakes, cherry jelly, and cherry punch. 

While in the past Dano was one of the three major Korean holidays (along with Seollal and Chuseok), its customs go largely uncelebrated today. But the holiday and it’s festivals aren’t forgotten. The holiday’s customs can be seen today in the Gangneung Dano Festival (강릉단오제). In 2005, the celebration was designated a “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

If you’d like to know more about the Gangneung Dano Festival, you find more information at www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=293063. Or you can find information about this year’s festival at: www.seoulcityblog.com/2010/06/11/gangneung-dano-festival/

You can learn more about Dano by using the following links, where I found information for this post: www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_4_1_14.jsp

www.lifeinkorea.com/culture/festivals/festivals.cfm?Subject=Dano

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