Dano Festival (단오)

Today is Dano in South Korea! Also known as Surit-nal (수릿날).

In Korea, odd numbers are very important. In the Korean calendar, there are festivals held on 1st day of the 1st month, 3rd day of the 3rd month and now Dano is on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Lunar Calendar. Dano is also believed to be the day where the positive energy force (yang), is considered to be at its peak (source).

On this day, people will perform a few spiritual rites, among other celebrations. Surit-nal means high day or the day of god and this festival is a shamanistic ritual, worshipping the sky deity in celebration of the end of sowing season (source). Dano falls just before Summer so it’s a way for farmers to pray for the harvest to be fruitful that year after all the seeds have been sown. Because this festival also falls in May/June time when Asia often experiences monsoon weather, rituals are performed in the hopes that illnesses can be prevented and families will be kept healthy as the monsoon rain fall can result in diseases spreading.

So what happens on this day?

Women will boil changpo (창포) in water, a type of iris that grows in ponds and lakes, and then wash their hair with the water to make their hair healthy, strong and shiny. Have you ever wondered why your grandma always tells you to never go to sleep with wet hair? In Asia there is a thing called “head cold” and sleeping with damp head can cause you to have a “head cold” and migraine problems in the future. Changpo is believed to be very good for the nerves in your head to help prevent any health problems. It’s also believed that changpo helps you to ward off evil spirits, which is always a handy tool! Men also use irises, but would wear the iris roots around their waist to keep the ghosts at bay. Ghostbusters could learn a thing or two it seems!

But there’s also fun to be had! It is believed that when a girl swings on a swing, she looks the most beautiful, so on Dano, girls will play on swings with their shiny hair billowing in the wind whilst the men do something a bit more physical – wrestling. Ssirum(씨름) is a manly battle, and many Kpop fans should be familiar with this as idols often play it on variety shows. Men will be tied around the waist and thigh with a strip of cloth, and whilst holding your opponent’s cloth band, you have to try and knock them over/bring them to their knees. A very physical and tactile game! It’s also very fun to watch as demonstrated by U-Kiss’ Hoon and Infinite’s Woohyun:

And of course you cannot have a Korean festival without tteok (떡)! There are a few food related traditions during Dano such as drinking cherry punch as it also happens to be cherry season during the festival. But the main item consumed on Dano is surichitteok (수리취떡), a flat and round rice cake with a imprint of a wagon wheel (수레) because Dano is also referred to as Surit-nal (수릿날). Surichitteok is a type of rice cake that is boiled with a mysterious vegetable now named Surichi (수리취). We found a very special blogger Yu Hye-Seong who explains the very interesting origin of the name Surichitteok:

The cake’s shape was similar to a tire of wagon, ‘Surae(수레)’, then add to meaning of vegetable, ‘chi(취)’  so cake’s name became Surichiddeok. Followed, that vegetable was named Surichi, too. Surae → Suri + chi 〓 Surichi. As a result, Surichi get name because of Dano.

Another tradition of Dano is where people make fans with well wishes written on them and give them as gifts. Korean Class MASSIVE got to take part in this tradition by making our very own fans! Check out our super fun arts and craft class:

We’re not sure where you can get changpo in the UK but we wish everyone a healthy rest of the year and an energetic Dano!

Sources: gwdoraeyo , Wiki , Koreaherald , Yu hye-seong

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