Sejubulon and Tosoju

From olden times, the Koreans enjoyed drinking liquor with festival dishes on lunar New Year’s Day.

Kyongdojapji, edited in the late 18th century, reads as follows: The liquor to be drunk on lunar New Year’s Day is called seju, and it is not warmed up. It has a meaning of greeting the spring.

The Korean ancestors thought that spring began from early January. Sejubulon was a custom based on the meaning that they should step up the preparations for farming in spring.

They drank a cup of cold liquor on lunar New Year’s Day. The custom reflects the diligent nature of the Korean people who want to refrain from excessive drinking from early in January and hasten the preparations for farming in spring.

Among the liquors for lunar New Year’s Day was tosoju.

Kunjaejip, compiled in the 14th century, has a record about tosoju.

The liquor was handed down from olden times. As it was made of several Koryo medicines such as cinnamon, Zanthoxyli perricarpium, Rhizoma Atractylodis, platycodon and Radix Clehniae, it prevented diseases and was good for health.

As there was a saying that “You have to start at the bottom to climb a ladder”, people drank the liquor in order of the youngest. According to Ojuyonmunjangjonsango, edited in the middle of the 19th century, such drinking method means that, on lunar New Year’s Day, the elders first congratulate young men on their maturity before drinking it while comforting themselves for their getting older.

It is said that the Koreans strictly observed the tosoju-drinking custom even in case of drinking other liquors on lunar New Year’s Day.

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