Korean Red Bean Stew

This is a retelling of the tradition of eating red bean porridge on the winter solstice, told to me by my mother.

“한국에서는 동지날(12월 22일) 팥죽을 먹었다. 왜냐하면 빨간색의 팥죽을 먹으면 귀신이 무서워서 도망간다”


han-gook-eh-suh-neun dong-jee-nar (sheeb-ee-wur ee-sheeb-ee-ear) pat-jook-eur mug-ut-dah. whey-nya-ha-myun bbar-gan-sek-eh pat-jook-eur mug-eu-myun gwee-shin-ee moo-suh-wuh-suh do-mang-gan-da


In Korea, the winter solstice red bean stew we ate. Because the red, red bean porridge if you eat ghosts become scared and run away.


In Korea, we ate red bean stew on the Winter Solstice. We ate it because ghosts became scared of the redness of the red bean porridge and fled.

For as long as I could remember, eating red bean porridge on the Winter Solstice has been a family tradition. Our ancestors ate red bean porridge on the Winter Solstice because they believed the red beans had the power to chase away evil spirits. The color of the red bean was believed to symbolize positive energy or ‘yang’ and thus was effective in thwarting dark energy or ‘yin.’ This was especially important during the Winter Solstice since the long night and scarce daylight was thought to contribute to lots of dark energy. Eating the porridge by itself is tasty, but knowing the folklore and traditions behind the meal make it even more delicious.