Festivals mark year’s most ‘positive’ dayMarking the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar, the Dano festival is an annual folk festival combining traditional music and dance performances, exhibitions and contests to wish for tranquility and good harvests after the rice planting season.
The festival, whose origin dates back millennia, was considered one of four major Korean traditional holidays in the Joseon Dynasty, besides Chuseok, the Lunar New Year and Hansik. To celebrate this ancient ritual, events will be held this weekend at various places throughout the country, including Seoul; Gangneung, Gangwon province; and Uiwang, Gyeonggi province.
Heralding the dog days of summer, Dano is believed to be the day with the strongest yang, or positive, life energy. It was held in high regard because it is an odd-numbered day in an odd-numbered month, considered an auspicious sign in ancient times.
During the Joseon era, the festival provided a rare opportunity for women to venture out and join the festivities and perhaps find romance. In the famous Korean tale “Chunhyangjeon,” Chunhyang meets Lee Doryeong, a young aristocrat, who falls in love with her after seeing her soar high on a swing with her dress billowing in the wind during the Dano festival. Chunhyang, the daughter of a gisaeng, or female artisan, refused to surrender her chastity to a new village chief even after she was put in jail, and was finally rescued by Lee.
Traditionally, during the festival, young women washed their hair in water boiled with iris petals, which produced a rich, glossy sheen, and sat on swings while the young men battled it out in ssireum (traditional wrestling), showing off their physical prowess. People snacked on summer foods such as cherries and surichi (a type of spring green) rice cakes.
The five-day Gangneung Dano festival is the largest in the country, with an estimated 1 million visitors each year. Unlike the other Dano festivals, this one draws performers from around the world, such as the Kebyar Dance and Pesta Desa Dance troupes from Indonesia and others from the Czech Republic and Egypt.
The festival, which ends Monday, offers Confucian and shamanistic ceremonies, a traditional mask dance, traditional folk music, ssireum, archery and a tug of war. Visitors can watch the brewing of liquor used in religious ceremonies and see an exorcism. For information, call 033-648-3014 or visit www.danojefestival.or.kr.
In Seoul, the festival takes place in Hanok Village (a traditional village) near Mount Namsan from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday. The Cheonugak stage is the venue for folk singing and pansori (traditional opera); traditional wrestling and arm wrestling contests; traditional swings and jumping contests; tightrope walking and male-troupe Namsadang traditional performances. Women will be guided to wash their hair in iris-petal water and color their nails with balsam.
There will be an opportunity to sample special Dano foods and to try making straw rope, as well as to view exhibitions of fans and charms. Hanok Village can be reached by walking about 200 meters (600 feet) from the No. 3 exit of Chungmuro station on lines No. 3 and 4. For information, call 02-2266-6923/4 or visit www.hanokmaeul.org.
The Dano festival in Uiwang, which is located between Seoul and Suwon, is a one-day event that starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. tomorrow. In addition to traditional Dano activities, visitors can try making fans, metal and stone rubbings and paper masks. The event also features a traditional puppet show, “An Old Man With Wen,” and the Dano Married Women Beauty Pageant. For information, call 031-456-4994 or visit www.uwcc.or.kr.
by Limb Jae-un