The festival is rooted in the tradition of bangae, in which farmers set their pastures alight to get rid of old grass and kill harmful pests between late winter and early spring, before the cattle and horses grazed in the fields. It was traditionally held on the first full moon of the new lunar year. Nowadays, however, it celebrates the arrival of spring, and takes place during gyungchip, (which takes place in March), a period of time in which frogs are thought to wake up from their winter sleep.
The highlight of the festival is the burning of the daljip. Literally meaning, “moon house,” daljip are large bonfire structures made of pine tree branches and other logs, which were typically set on fire with the rise of the full moon. It was believed that these fires would help deliver villagers’ prayers for good fortune, protection from evil and a good harvest.
Thousands of visitors travel from all around the country to witness the spectacle and in addition to the bonfire, a number of other events and cultural activities are held, such as fireworks displays, K-pop concerts, and deumdol, a competition in which participants compete to carry giant boulders. In ancient times, this traditional sporting event was an integral part of the coming of age ceremony of the island’s residents.
Experience the beauty of the Jeju Fire Festival for yourself in the images below.