The Spirit of Unity Pervades at the Gangneung Danoje Festival
Korea’s annual Dano holiday (단오) is one of the three most-celebrated holidays in the nation; the other two being New Year’s and Thanksgiving. It was originally established as a day for people to share traditional food together in order to stay healthy and fit for the summer. It was also a time to hold rituals to pray for a year of abundant harvest. Even until today, traditional festivities and folk events are held in Gangwon-do during the days leading up to Dano (May 5th on the lunar calendar) to commemorate and prepare for Gangneung’s Danoje Festival.
The Gangneung Danoje Festival traditional games and activities have been passed down from generation to generation. These include folk games such as the swing and ssireum (Korean wrestling), and other practices such as washing one’s hair in sweet flag-infused water, eating surichwi tteok (rice cakes made with marsh plant), making Dano fans, and decorating masks. The cultural uniqueness and remarkable artistic qualities of Gangneung Danoje, Important Intangible Cultural Properties No. 13, were acknowledged by UNESCO and the festival was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on November 25th 2005.
The festive mood of the Gangneung Danoje Festival can be felt throughout the whole city. The main festivities for the 2014 Gangneung Danoje Festival will run from May 31 to June 7 at the Gangneung Dano Cultural Center and in the area around Namdaecheon Stream. Visitors will be able to experience traditional Yeonhui performances (theatrical performances featuring song, dance and drama) for free and experience other time-honored cultural events.
The events at the Gangneung Danoje Festival are divided into cultural events, folk games, experiential learning events, citizen participation events, and concerts and performances.
*The cultural events begin with the offering of alcohol to the gods (Sinju Bitgi) on May 3rd (April 5th on the lunar calendar), but the main events of the Gangneung Danoje Festival start with the Yeongsinje (the spirit-welcoming ceremony) and the Sintongdaegil traditional parade on May 31st. Then, the Daegwallyeong memorial tablets and the sacred tree are placed in a shrine for a memorial service. After the rituals are complete, a procession accompanied by folk music winds its way to an altar prepared at Namdaecheon. After the parade, the people proceed to Namdaecheon for the gut (shaman’s rite) and a mask drama play.
Recommended Cultural Events
◆◆ Danogut (단오굿)
The Danogut is performed by Gangneung’s most well-known female shaman, who prays for the health and happiness of all the people at the festival. The shaman speaks with the spirits and chants as she performs the dances and rituals.
◆◆ Gwanno Mask Drama (관노 가면극)
Performed only at the Gangneung Danoje Festival, the Gwanno Mask Drama is a non-verbal traditional Korean mask drama where the lower class servants (nobi) wore masks of the upper class nobles (yangban). The drama is about the love of an upper class nobleman and the forces that interfere with his love. This easy-to-follow comedic drama runs for roughly 50 minutes and is sure to put a smile on your face.
◆◆ Ssireum (씨름)
Ssireum is a traditional Korean wrestling among men. The wrestlers grab on to each other's satba (a piece of cloth wrapped around the waist and legs) and the match begins. The wrestler who gets the other on the ground first wins the game. Both group and individual ssireum tournaments are held during the Danoje Festival. The group tournament is played by teams composed of Gangneung citizens while the individual tournament is open to all festival visitors.
◆◆ Geune (그네)
The swinging contest is one of the most popular folk games enjoyed by women during the Danoje Festival. A swing is hung on a tree and whoever can swing the highest is declared the winner of the competition.
Experience Dano Customs
Other Dano customs can be experienced at the festival venue. Visitors can take part in such hands-on programs as making surichwi tteok (rice cakes made with a type of marsh plant), sampling sinju liquor (liquor made a month before Dano to offer to the gods), washing your hair with sweet flag-infused water, and Dano fan decorating.
Citizen Participation Events
◆◆ Yeongsinje and Sintongdaegil Traditional Parade
The Sintongdaegil traditional parade marks the beginning of Dano and is the most popular citizen participation event during the festival. After the folk play, the memorial tablet is carried to the altar at the festival venue. Over 5,000 Dano lanterns illuminate the parade path, and a huge number of citizens carrying lanterns follow the Sintongdaegil traditional parade, creating a festive mood. The citizens make rice offerings to the gods, and then use the collected rice to make alcohol and tteok (떡, rice cakes) for everyone to try. It is said that those who eat the rice cakes and drink the alcohol used in the sacrificial rites will remain healthy for the rest of the year.
2014 Gangneung Danoje Festival
☞ Period: May 31 – June 7, 2014
☞ Venue: Danojang and festival grounds in Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do
☞ Admission: Free / Fees may apply for participation in hands-on programs
☞ Language service: Tourist information centers are available inside the festival venue (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
*Gangneung Danoje Festival Committee: : +82-33-641-1593 (Korean)
*TIC: +82-33-640-4414 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
*1330 Korea Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Danoje homepage: http://www.danojefestival.or.kr/ (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Gangneung Tourism homepage:
http://www.gntour.go.kr/ (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)