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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Gyeongchip : Day of Awakening from Hibernation

[경칩 /Gyeongchip : Day of Awakening from Hibernation]
Today, March 6th is Gyeongchip, the day that Koreans believe frogs awaken from their winter sleep. Also, known as “Day of Awakening from Hibernation” and is the 3rd out of the 24 solar terms in the Jeolgi Calendar. Gyeongchip is on the 74th day after the winter solstice, when the sun is at the ecliptic longitude of 345 degrees and indicates the start of spring.

The two characters “gyeong” and “chip” mean “surprise” and “hiding,” referring to the term of the time of year when the frogs, snakes, and insects begin singing, chirping, and peeping again. The “hiding” refers to the fact that the insects hide in the ground throughout the winter, and the “surprise” comes from the traditional idea that the first thunder of the year peals on this day and the insects come out from the ground in surprise at the noise.

A custom associated with Gyeongchip was hunting for frog or salamander eggs in rice paddy fields, ponds, and ditches. There was a belief that consuming those eggs would keep one healthy throughout the year. Gyeongchip was also considered a day on which all work associated with dirt could be done successfully so people repaired walls in their mud-plastered houses or built mud fences, even if there was no real need to do so, as this repair work was believed to eliminate bedbugs from the house. 

On Gyeongchip Koreans also tried to predict the success of farming in the year ahead by looking at how well barley had germinated by this day.Another related custom was drinking sap from the trunks of maple trees as this was believed to have healing benefits for gastric disorders and intestinal diseases. The maple sap had to be collected on a clear day because, according to a popular belief, cloudy or windy weather would spoil the positive energy of this day. Past Gyeongchip, the amount of sap available in a maple tree dwindles sharply and the sap was thought to lose its healing quality. Therefore it was critical to collect the sap on the day of Gyeongchip.

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