Tano Festival

Tano Festival (Dano)

Type of Holiday: Calendar/Seasonal
Date of Observation: May-June; fifth day of the fifth lunar month
Where Celebrated: Korea
Symbols and Customs: Amulets, Date Tree Wedding, Fan, Iris, Mask Dance, Mugwort, Swinging, Wrestling
Related Holidays: Double Fifth


The Tano Festival celebrates the changing seasons and the coming of spring. Since ancient times people in all parts of the world have honored the changing of the seasons. Many cultures divided the year into two seasons, summer and winter, and marked these points of the year at or near the SUMMER SOLSTICE and WINTER SOLSTICE , during which light and warmth began to increase and decrease, respectively. In pre-industrial times, humans survived through hunting, gathering, and agricultural practices, which depend on the natural cycle of seasons, according to the climate in the region of the world in which they lived. Thus, they created rituals to help ensure enough rain and sun in the spring and summer so crops would grow to fruition at harvest time, which was, in turn, duly celebrated. Vestiges of many of these ancient practices are thought to have survived in festivals still celebrated around seasonal themes.

Also known as Dano Day or Swing Day, the Tano Festival is an ancient spring agricultural festival in Korea that started as a planting ritual and a time to pray for a good harvest. It falls in the farming season between the planting of rice seedlings and their transplanting to the paddy fields. Along with SOL or New Year's Day and the MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL, it is one of the country's three great national holidays.

In ancient times, people got up early on Tano, washed, and put on new clothes. They performed the ceremony of worshipping their ancestors with special foods arranged before the home altar. After the ceremony, everyone enjoyed eating the sacrificial foods and spent the day celebrating with friends. In modern Korea, people still make offerings of new summer foods at the family shrine, and women and children gather together in their new clothes to play games and engage in SWING ING contests. Rice cakes in the shape of the Chinese characters meaning "long life" Tano Festival

and "blessings" are a festival favorite, as are rainbow rice cakes made with rice flour that has been dyed in bright colors.

According to oriental philosophy, the number five is regarded as having a positive character because it is an odd number. There is a tendency to emphasize all double-odd days, but the double fifth day is regarded as particularly auspicious.



It is customary for each household to make Dano Day amulets or good-luck charms by writing in red ink sentences that guarantee the annihilation of disease and invite heavenly blessings and good fortune for every member of the family. The amulets are then posted over the name plate at the front gate of the house. Up until the end of the Yi Dynasty in Korea, cabinet ministers and other officials used to make Dano amulets and post them on the pillars of the royal palace. This practice probably derived from the ancient belief in using a red seal on a piece of paper as a means of warding off evil spirits.

Date Tree Wedding

In rural areas, there is a custom known as the "date tree wedding," which involves inserting a round stone between two branches of a date tree. If this is done at noon on the Tano Festival, it is believed that the tree will bear more fruit. A similar result can be achieved by chopping many branches off the tree at noon on this day.


There are two types of fans in Korea: the folding type and the flat, round fan. Folding fans have white bamboo struts and are often painted with lacquer, with pictures of peach blossoms, butterflies, locusts, white herons, and other symbolic objects. The flat, round fan is called a danseon and can be made to resemble various leaf shapes. Men traditionally use the round fan at home but take a folding fan when they go out in public. Women and young people usually use the round fan. Some round fans are large enough to shade the sunlight, and some have long handles so they can be used to chase away flies and mosquitoes.

Up until the end of the Yi Dynasty, it was traditional to make fans and present them to the king, who in turn gave them to cabinet ministers and other government officials on Dano Day. Local governors and military officers also used to present fans to the palace and distribute them as gifts. The fan is still considered an important symbol of the festival.


One of the first things that Korean boys and girls do on the day of the Tano Festival, before changing into their new clothes, is to wash their hair and faces in hot water that has been boiled with iris or calamus plants. The root of the plant is then carved to make a hairpin with letters meaning "long life" and "luck" painted in vermilion-a custom that is believed to chase bad spirits away.

Mask Dance

The Mask Dance was at one time a popular part of the Tano celebration, particularly in the Bongsan and Haeju areas. The dancers were usually local officials who had some singing and dancing talent; they put together a company in which membership was hereditary. About a month before the festival, they went off to a Buddhist monastery to prepare for their performance.

Nowadays, it is usually local merchants who bear the expense of the mask dance and then invite their customers and business associates to be their guests. The dance is performed at night, with a wood fire to illuminate the scene, and it lasts until dawn. Because people believe that the masks and costumes attract evil spirits during the performance, it is customary to burn them in the fire when it is over. The performers gather around the fire and pray with their hands pressed together, which marks the end of the ritual dance.


There was an ancient custom in Korea of making a tiger out of artemisia or mugwort plants on Dano Day. It resembled a scarecrow and was called the ssug-beom or 'artemisia tiger.' Occasionally the tiger was made from colored cloth, and artemisia leaves were used only on the outside.

In rural areas, people still get up early on Dano Day to cut artemisia in the fields and make a bundle of it to hang on their front gates. Because of its strong smell, it is believed to ward off bad luck and disaster. Mugwort is a common ingredient in herbal medicines, and at one time it was believed that only plants dug at noon on this day and dried in the shade would have the desired medicinal effect.


For women in both urban and rural areas, swinging is a popular activity on Dano Day. A long, heavy rope is tied at both ends to the branch of a large tree-or, more often nowadays, to the cross-piece of a tall frame-and women swing by riding on the U-shaped bottom of the rope. The swinger wears a colorful dress and hair ribbons. Sometimes young women swing in pairs, and there are contests to see who can swing the highest and kick a suspended bell. They wear colorful Korean dressTano Festival

es with billowing skirts, and, in Pyongyang, where swinging is particularly popular, blue skirts with white jackets or red skirts with yellow jackets.

Although boys and men may participate in the swinging contests as well, this is a sport that is traditionally reserved for women and girls.


Boys and men often spend the day of the festival participating in ssirum, a form of native Korean wrestling that dates back to 400 C . E . Each village selects its biggest, strongest man to represent them in these contests, and the rivalry can be intense. Only the hands and feet are used, which keeps it from getting too violent.

The two wrestlers begin by facing each other kneeling down; they get ready by holding each other, their right hand grasping the opponent's waistband and their left hand holding the opponent's leg. When the starting signal is given, they stand up together and start wrestling. The one whose body or hand touches the ground first loses. Ssirum matches are very popular in Korea and are often televised nationally.


Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Sang-su, Choe. Annual Customs of Korea. Seoul: Seomun-dang, 1983. Van Straalen, Alice. The Book of Holidays Around the World. New York: Dutton, 1986.


Korean Air www.skynews.co.kr/skynews_main/ENGLISH/culture/culture_006.htm
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Tano Festival (Dano-nal; Swing Day)

May-June; fifth day of fifth lunar month
An ancient spring agricultural festival in Korea, the Tano Festival started as a planting ritual and a time to pray for a good harvest. It falls in the farming season between the planting of rice seedlings and their transplanting to the paddy fields. With the lunar Sol or New Year's Day and Mid-Autumn Festival, it is one of the country's three great festivals on the lunar calendar. Festivities in the countryside include swinging contests for girls: swings are suspended from tall poles or bridges, and the girls, sometimes in pairs, try to ring a bell with their feet as they swing. Boys and men sometimes compete in this, but usually they take part in ssirum, native Korean wrestling, a sport that can be dated to 400 c.e. Today ssirum matches are nationally televised.
In the usually sleepy east coast town of Kangnung, the festival goes on for nearly a week. Activities include a mask dance-drama of ancient tradition and shaman kut, ritualistic ceremonies combining theatrics with music and dance.
The ceremonies are performed by a shaman, or mudang, a priestess who is able to appease spirits to prevent natural disasters. The mudang is also a talented performer with supernatural powers when in a trance. A long-lived indigenous shamanistic faith of uncertain origin involves the worship of spirits and demons who reside in natural objects—rocks, mountains, trees, and so on. Shamanists also believe the dead have souls, and that the mudangs can mediate between the living and the departed.
Korea is nominally more than 70 percent Buddhist and more than 15 percent Christian, but it actively remains about 90 percent shamanist.
Korea Foundation
10-11F, Diplomatic Center Bldg., 2558 Nambusunhwanno, Seocho-gu
Seoul, 137-863 Korea
82-2-3463-5684; fax: 82-2-3463-6086
Gangwon-do Tourist Office
15 Pongui-dong
Kangwon-do, Gangwon 200-700 Korea
82-33-254-2011; fax: 82-33-249-4018
BkHolWrld-1986, Jun 16
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 374
HolSymbols-2009, p. 933
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.