The leaves have fallen, and the wind is getting colder. As winter approaches, Korean traditionally prepare to make kimchi a staple food that is eaten throughout the winter. Women in the past gathered around a lake to wash cabbages and white radish. Also, Koreans traditionally eat red bean soup, which is said to cast off bad spirits. Children, even now, gather to ride sleighs on frozen lakes, fly kites in the winter sky and play with tops on the floor. Then, how do people from other parts of the world enjoy winter? The Sookmyung Times met two exchange students to learn about their home nation’s traditional customs and games during the winter.
Hongyu Wang (China)
Division of Business Administration / Exchange Student
Dumpling, the Shield Protecting the Cold
Winter in China has something special. Hongyu introduces two unique festivals in China’s winter. In Harbin, they hold the world’s biggest ice festival called the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. During the festival, renowned ice sculptors from around the world travel to China to make sculptures of famous architecture, statues, animals and artifacts. Also, another important day in China is ‘Chunjul,’ which is the Chinese New Year. On the national holiday, families that have been apart throughout the year for various reasons gather together on that day to celebrate.
Hongyu added, “Every year, on October 21st to the 23rd, Chinese people celebrate the winter solstice. It is a tradition to eat dumplings on that day. If you do not, it is said that your ears will freeze off.” According to the traditional Chinese calendar, there are 24 solar terms in a year and the winter solstice is one of them. Dumplings are believed to have been first invented by the well-known Chinese doctor ‘Zhang Zhongjing’ during the Eastern-Han Dynasty. He noticed that people's ears were freezing in winter on his way back to his hometown, so he asked his disciples to combine mutton, chilies, and other medicinal ingredients to create a paste and wrap it with dough skins in the shape of ears that would fend off the cold. They are now known throughout the world as dumplings. Zhang Zhongjing died on the first day of winter solstice so all households eat dumplings on that day to honor his memory.
Tu Ja (Vietnam)
Division of Korean Language and Literature / Exchange Student
Celebrating New Year’s Day With Family
Vietnam has many New Year customs. Starting from December 25th to the 30th, Vietnam celebrates the Lunar New Year. They hold a festival called ‘Tet’ in which families gather together after a year of work. On New Year’s Eve, homes are often cleaned and decorated. Children are in charge of sweeping and scrubbing the floor. It is commonly believed that cleaning the house will remove any bad fortune still associated with the previous year. A special traditional food on New Years is ‘Banh Chung.’ Banh Chung is made of sticky rice, pork, and green beans, which are combined and wrapped inside a special leaf called ‘Dong.’ Making Banh Chung requires care and precision at every step. The rice and green beans have to be soaked in water for an entire day to make them stickier. The pork is usually soaked in pepper for several hours. Squaring off and tying the cakes with bamboo strings require delicate skills to make it a perfect square.
Tu Ja added, “In Vietnam there are 6 popular New Year traditional games.” One of them is ‘Danh Du.’ Danh Du, Swinging is a traditional and interesting game held every Tet holiday. Two tall poles are placed parallel on the ground, and a swing is tied between the 2 poles. People involved in this game compete with each other in pairs, a man and woman team, or two women to swing the highest.