Winter Solstice (Dongji, 동지), is celebrated on the day of the year when daylight hours are the shortest. This day usually takes place between 20 to 22 December of the solar calendar. Starting from this day, the days become longer, marking the coming of spring, which is regarded as the real start of a new year. Dongji is sometimes referred to as “Little New Year’s Day”.
Koreans celebrate Dongji by eating red bean porridge (Patjuk, 팥죽). Dongji patjuk contains saealsim (새알심) meaning bird egg, a ball made from glutinous rice flour, named as such due to its resemblance to small bird’s eggs, possibly quail eggs.
(clockwise from top left direction: red bean porridge, seaweed porridge, abalone porridge, pumpkin porridge)
The ancient Korean traditional believes that patjuk has the power to drive away evil spirits. This is because red is a symbolic colour of positive energy which can defeat negative energy. A such, cooking and eating patjuk is a ritual to drive away bad luck, diseases and evil spirits.
Nowadays people don’t make patjuk at home, and rarely do they perform ancestral rites or place patjuk around the house. Instead, they purchase patjuk ready-made at food stores and eat it together with family. Winter solstice falls on 21 December in 2013. (Korea Standard Time : December 22, 2013)