Beginning of Spring(立春)
Ipchun (Kor. 입춘, Chin. 立春, Beginning of Spring), the first of the twenty four solar terms, occurs between Daehan (Kor. 대한, Chin. 大寒, lit. Great Cold) and Usu (Kor. 우수, Chin. 雨水, lit. The First Rainfall of the Year) and falls approximately on February fourth on the Gregorian calendar. On this day the Ecliptic rises to 315° from the horizon. In the lunar calendar, Ipchun lands on the first month of the year. Ipchun can occur twice in some years, once in January and once in the following December. This is referred to as jaebongchun (Kor. 재봉춘, Chin. 再逢春, lit. reoccurrence of spring).
Many rites and activities related to farming are held on the day of Ipchun. In both urban and rural areas people posted sheets containing a message welcoming the spring on the gate or door of their houses. The royal court used to select the finest congratulatory poems composed by a civil servant, write them on paper decorated with drawings of lotus, and post them in the palace. These poems on lotus-motif sheets were referred to as chuncheopja (Kor. 춘첩자, Chin. 春帖子, lit. spring slip). Other customs observed in the royal palace and local communities on Ipchun included harnessing a clay or wooden ox to a plow and practicing celebratory rituals and exorcism rites.
There is a variety of dishes associated with Ipchun. The dish known as osinban (Kor. 오신반, Chin. 五辛盤, a platter of five pungent-tasting spring greens) was served in the royal court and sesaengchae (Kor. 세생채, Chin. 細生菜, lit. spring green dish) was customarily eaten in ordinary people’s homes. In Hamgyeong Province, people ate myeongtae-sundae (Kor. 명태순대), pollack stuffed with diced pork and cabbage.
The “Yeoryang Sesigi” (Kor. 열양세시기, Chin. 洌陽歲時記, Seasonal Festive Customs in the Capital, 1819) documented a practice in farming households of digging out the roots of barley plants and examining their shape in order to predict the outcome of farming in the year ahead. If the barley root had three shoots or more, it was believed to be an indicator of abundant crop yields. If the root had only two shoots, the harvest would be average and if a barley plant had only a single root with no lateral shoots, it was considered a sign of a poor crop yield. The weather on the day of Ipchun was another indicator of future farming production. A clear and windless day was considered auspicious both for farming and for the health of household members while snow and rain suggested an unlucky year ahead.
Many rites and customs that prayed for good fortunes associated with this first of the twenty-four seasonal terms have all vanished today. Only the custom of posting of spring messages on doors is still presently observed.