The Winter Solstice
Do you want to get rid of bad luck? Then you should eat the red bean soup! Dongji or the Winter Solstice is one of the most representative traditional holidays in Korea. Dongji is a Sino-Korean word and if we interpret this meaning, it indicates that the winter is near. The Winter Solstice is November by the lunar calendar and its length of the day is the shortest in the year. So many people consider that the New Year effectively begins after Dongji. Therefore, there is food that Koreans must eat during the Winter Solstice to escape bad luck of New Year. That's the red bean soup. We believe that the red color of the red bean drives away all the bad luck. So if the Winter Solstice comes, we eat the red bean soup altogether for escaping bad luck in our home or in a temple.
At the Winter Solstice, many people make the red bean soup as well as various side dishes in their houses. At the morning of the Winter Solstice, all relatives gather. After gathering and greeting each other, people place the red bean soup which was made before Dongji comes on the table. Then we have to place other side dishes also on the table. The more the better because the Winter Solstice is the day which welcomes the New Year effectively. As side dishes, there comes Kimchi, perilla leaves, marinated beef, garlic and so on. These side dishes include the meaning of escaping bad luck. If the table is set, relatives gathered can eat all the food on the table chatting with each other delightfully.
Not only in home but also in the temple, people are busy at distributing the red bean soups to visitors. Because my grandmother is a Buddhist, my family often visits the temple and gets treated to red bean soups at the Winter Solstice. If we visit the temple, there are already many people who are praying in front of the Buddha statue. After admiring at the sight of the temple, my family goes inside the restaurant where the visitors are welcomed. After we order red bean soups according to the number of people, we sit down and wait. Then the servers in Temple distribute us the red bean soups. After eating up the red bean soup, if I see the sight of the temple again, I feel as if all my bad luck has gone away.
Like this, because almost everyone makes and eats the red bean soup at the Winter Solstice, if you are Koreans, you have to remember how to make the red bean soup before Dongji comes. Actually, the way of making the red bean soup is very simple. First, we have to boil red beans which are the most important ingredient in making the red bean soup. Put the water and red beans altogether in a same pot and boil the pot on high heat. After this, boil on low heat. Then put boiled red beans and water into the blender and mix altogether. Finally, put the mixed beans and water into another pot and add small dumplings in it. Then our delicious red bean soup is done. You can add sugar if you want when you taste it.
As I mentioned above, at the Winter Solstice, everyone gets together in home or in a temple and eats the red bean soup to escape the bad luck of the New Year. I love the Winter Solstice because the red bean soup is one of my favorite food but there is another reason, too. I don't fully believe that we can avoid our bad luck of New Year just by eating the red bean soup but I think that there is a further significance in that all relatives who cannot see each other often can assemble in the same place and eat the same food chatting with each other. So I love the Winter Solstice and this year also I will make and eat the red bean soup with my lovely family.