The Korean people have maintained their own lifestyle in such a passionate and harmonious way that reflected national sentiments and tastes and taken full advantage of the given living environment from olden times.
Here are some of the living customs in winter peculiar to the Korean nation.
Snow has long been intertwined with the life of the Koreans and many old tales are told in connection with snow in the country.
The ancestors measured the amount of snowfall by the unit of ja, Korean foot, already in the period of the Three Kingdoms (3rd century BC-AD mid-7th century) and designated sosol (light snow) and taesol (big snow) in the 24 seasonal divisions and recorded the time of snowfalls.
They did not regard cold and snow as a source of fear and unrest but thought that it should naturally be cold and they should have heavy snowfalls in winter.
They believed that a snowfall in large flakes portended warm weather and a powdery snowfall was a sign of cold weather. This shows that they observed the state of snow in detail to forecast weather through their long historical period.
Children’s snowball fight and snowman building are typical examples of the Korean folklore related to snow.
Snowball fight was a very good exercise for the physical development of children who normally stayed at home during the winter. It was an ideal game for children in winter as they were not hurt when they were hit by snowballs.
Snowman building helped them overcome cold and train themselves and also developed their capacity for united action and promoted friendship.
Thus, the ancestors had a special liking for snow and maintained such a good custom, peculiar to the nation, of overcoming the freezing cold of winter with optimism.
The Korean ancestors went through the winter by heating rooms with a fireplace.
As the old saying goes, warm feelings, stories and memories gather around a brazier on cold winter nights when strong chill winds blow and snow piles up on the ground.
As family members gathered around the braziers, old people would tell their children and neighbours their life stories deepening affections to each other.
As they did not have matches, the ancestors greatly valued live charcoal and used it to kindle a fire for generations.
Therefore, every household had a brazier for keeping live charcoal.
Warmest part of ondol floor
Ondol is an under-floor heating system peculiar to the Korean nation, which was created in the period of Ancient Joson (early 30th century BC-108 BC).
The warmest and most noticeable part of the ondol floor is the place nearest to the fireplace.
Therefore, it was where mothers and children developed maternal and filial affections.
When naughty children were back home after playing outside on cold winter days, considerate mothers would warm their frostbitten hands under a blanket at the warmest part of ondol. Mothers would also keep rice bowls there as they waited for their children on a long journey.
The warmest part of ondol in Korea was a place for protecting the health of family members from the cold weather and, at the same time, the fount of emotion and a mental refuge where family members shared affections and deepened cordial feelings.