Danoje Festival was held in Namdaecheon area, Gangneung, from May 27 to June 3, 2017.
Gangneung Danoje is the oldest Korean traditional festival and its large scale is remarkable.
This festival originated from the custom that the ancestors wished for the rich harvest holding rites right before summer begun. Also various rites were held to wish health and to exorcise ghosts or illness during Danoje.
Because we had learned about Danoje only by textbooks,
we were thrilled when planning to experience the festival in reality.
Although summer didn’t start yet, the weather was much closer to summer.
The festival sites along both sides of the river caught our eyes first when we arrived in Namdaecheon.
We could estimate the scale of the festival watching that stands were lined up endlessly and people crowded.
It was the true largest Korean festival.
Danomun(Dano Gate) welcomed us first when we entered the festival venue.
The entrance gate leads to Dano Park and Dano Culture Center.
Various activities went on here too.
To the left from Danomun, was a line of stands for various experiences such as washing hair with changpo(sweet flags) infused water, eating suriddeok, drawing on a fan, painting on a mask, tea ceremony, etc.
The charges were very cheap at 1,000 won to 5,000 won.
The most eye-catching one was washing hair with changpo water.
When it comes to ‘Dano’, it reminds most Korean people of this ceremony first.
We felt like getting cool just watching people got their hair washed in the hot day.
The ancestors believed changpo drove away misfortune and illness.
Until now washing hair with changpo water is the representative ceremony of Dano Day.
Originally Dano Day was one of the biggest national holidays to pray for the rich harvest long time ago.
Each household made suriddeok or ssukddeok and a bunch of delicious food and held the ancestral rite.
The table was set mostly with health food to overcome the upcoming heating summer or ssuk(mugwort) food to drive away bad luck.
We could experience the activities related to the custom above-mentioned like tasting ssukddeok and making surichuiddeok with patterns at the festival site.
Besides, there were many activities like tea ceremony, making a Dano fan, painting on a mask, etc. And visitors could try to wear Hanbok and go around the festival sites.
We looked around the festival sites slowly,
and it was the most interesting that many families participated in various activities with their children.
Gangneung Danoje offers opportunities to learn about Korean traditional culture in fun ways,
perhaps which is the key to make the festival passed down through generations well.
At Danojang, the festival site, visitors could watch various performances like the Korean traditional masque, ssireum(Korean wrestling) and modern Dongchun circus as well.
The site was the site for the past and the present being together.
Another attraction at Danojang is the nanjang(the temporary open market for non-permanent vendors).
Danoje’s nanjang is famous for its huge scale.
Lots and lots of selling stands lined up endlessly and amusement facilities for kids were there too.
We could not find only familiar food like pajeon, yukgaejang, twisted donuts but also unique food uncommon these days. Grilled quail, pumpkin yeot cut by the seller on the spot, beondegi(silkworm), those food seemed like to give novelty to young people and memories to old people.
Dano’s nanjang was the place having plenty of entertainment and food for people of all ages.
In the age when transportation wasn’t developed, Dano Day was one of the biggest festival days,
so people from all around the country gathered around the place with all kinds of products.
It was the biggest open market day of the year and all the things were traded there.
Now you can get products easily at modern markets and stores, however in the past time this market was the very important place for common people to buy and sell necessities.
Nowadays you can meet products and culture experience from various countries at Danojang
After looking around all the corners of Danojang,
we crossed Changpogyo(Changpo Bridge) to see Sintongdaegil Parade,
being impressed with the festival sight spread out far away.
Here and there were the slogans to wish for success of 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Gangneung is in the world’s spotlight as the venue of the Olympic ice sports.
I expect it will lead much more people to get interested in Korean historic cultural events like Danoje.
It can be said surely Sintongdaegil Parade is the highlight of Danoje.
The parade of citizens from 21 regions in Gangneung was followed by Youngsin procession.
They marched with specialties and mascots representative of the regions.
All the generations and classes of Gangneung participated actively in and supported the parade,
and enjoyed the whole process.
It was really impressive and moving that all worked together in harmony to continue the tradition.
In this era when community spirit and regional sympathies, meaning ‘we’, are disappearing, the 2 hours parade,
the residents made voluntarily, can be an overwhelming experience to all.
I’d like to recommend seeing Gangneung Danoje to people never heard about it.
It would be a new experience for them.
Old local festivals can be considered boring and difficult, however Danoje where we visited first hand, was full of interesting contents. Attractions, food, entertainment, everything was good in the festival.
Gangneung Danoje is an old custom originated from the Korean folk’s ritual, but not insisting only on old styles.
It will keep developing in harmonies of inherited old tradition and modern culture.
The most impressive thing was cooperation of the local communities.
Every citizen was the master and participant of the festival.
Most of people have forgotten the value of communalism, but they are keeping on going with it, which is the true meaning of Gangneung Danoje.