Asia’s Forgotten Holiday

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Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
Kim Justine

Have you ever heard of the holiday called “Jung-Yangjeol”? It is a traditional Asian holiday that was celebrated by China, Korea, Japan and other East Asian countries. It was considered to be a special day because it fell on September the 9th (9/9) on the lunar calendar. Since the number nine was considered to be an important number in the past, a double 9 was very special to Asians.

Then, how did this holiday begin? The exact origin of this holiday is unknown. However, it is believed to have started during the Shilla Dynasty when soldiers were given annual celebrations. This holiday was further observed in the Goryeo Dynasty. During this period, the elders celebrated the holiday among themselves – the men with other men, and women with other women. Together in these groups, they cooked special dishes and went to various places with beautiful scenery to celebrate. Often, they visited places that had chrysanthemums because it was a flower that bloomed during that period. Its sweet fragrance was the main reason it was popular. The king also marked the day by making sacrifices to his ancestors. Besides the king, other people who were not able to celebrate Chuseok used this day to pay their respects to their ancestors, which was another reason that this holiday was so important.

A number of countries have various tales describing the origin of this holiday. In China, there is a very special practice of talented martial arts specialists climbing Woosan Mountain. The tale continues with the first martial arts specialist who climbed the mountain with his family returning home to find that all of the domesticated animals in his house had died. Thus, the tradition of bringing milk and drinking wine made of chrysanthemum started because of the special help and protection it gives to the people. It is said that carrying milk helps to ward off bad auras from a person and drinking chrysanthemum wine helps to stop fast-aging.

Jung-Yangjeol is also called Elder’s Day in China. This is because Chinese people think that it is extremely important for one to respect his or her elders and for the elders to respect their offspring. Thus, on this day, the Chinese have a unique practice of the offspring filling a large jar full of rice. This rice is called soomi and is considered to be of great importance in the household because it is thought to help the elders to recover their health and live for a long time. Therefore, it is only eaten when the elderly are sick.

In Korea, “Jung-Yangjeol” is also said to be the day when the swallow comes back and a special day when harvesting season ends. Various practices are observed to celebrate Jung-Yangjeol in Korea. Koreans sacrificed food and other objects to their ancestors. Because of the family gatherings for these ancestral ceremonies, the government made sure everyone had the day off. However, since this holiday is in September, when harvesting is very important, men harvested the crops in the fields while the women planted garlic. So, ironically, although it was supposed to be a holiday, everyone was working, one way or another. But after the hard day’s work, people ate chrysanthemum pancakes and drank Korean wine to celebrate.

Then, why is this holiday no longer celebrated? Due to the busy lives of Koreans, many of these kinds of holidays have been forgotten because people think that they do not have enough time. Over time, people were no longer told of these holidays, and naturally forgot about this holiday until it was no longer celebrated.

As historians say, “One needs to know the past in order to create a better future.” It is important to know one’s culture well, so that in the future we are able to continue the country’s culture. Moreover, it is important to know your own culture because it is part of who you are and where you have come from., It is necessary for the government to try to start resurrecting some of these important holidays so that we can improve and learn from our mistakes. I hope that next year, more people will be aware of this forgotten holiday.

Justine Kim
Chadwick International

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