동지 冬至 The Shortest Day of the Year
25 Apr 19
It is 冬至 or 동지 (dongji) in Korea. Today is winter solstice which marks the longest night of the year. In the past, 동지 was celebrated in a big way, now being replaced by Christmas and the modern New Year. In Korea, 동지 is also called 작은설 meaning small new year.
동지 팥죽 is eaten on 동지. It is red bean soup with glutinous rice ball, called (새알심) meaning bird egg, because it looks like small bird’s eggs. The same number of glutinous rice balls are added as the person’s age. Just like eating rice-cake soup (떡국) on the first day of lunar new year marks being one year older, eating 동지 팥죽 also represents becoming one year older.
Red beans are believed to ward off evil spirits. Traditionally, before eating 팥죽, Koreans scatter the red beans around the house like in the kitchen to prevent bad luck and epidemic disease. According to the historical record book 형초세시기 ( 荊楚歲時記 ), there was a man named Gong Gong (共工) whose son died on dongji and became a bad spirit that caused trouble and epidermic to the people. As the son hated red beans, people started scattering red bean around their houses to chase him away.
Today, what’s really beneficial about red bean soup is that it’s really good as a hangover food after all the partying.