Thursday, February 9, 2012

Daeboreum Feast and Yut Game (정월대보름과 윷놀이)

Last Monday was Jeongwol Daeboreum, the first full moon after the New Year in Korea. We celebrated one day early with a party on Sunday evening at our friend Jongshil's house. The main purpose of this party was to assemble everyone who will be joining us for our big trip to Angkor Wat next week, so we can make plans and get to know each other better. Most of the food was prepared by Jongshil, and consisted of the sort of traditional unspiced vegetarian fare that is associated with the New Year. Unni and I provided a salad.


Several people brought their kids along, who ranged in age from a little 4-year-old girl to a high school sophomore. As the adults laid in to the beer and boxed wine, the kids started up a spirited game of Yunnori (aka Yut). This is a traditional game that involves throwing sticks and moving pieces around a board.

They sell Yut gameboards and pieces, but apparently Jongshil is a purist and believes in constructing the game out of common household items. She drew a little gameboard with pen and paper, used coins and little figurines as game pieces, and had us throw sticks onto a folded blanket. Only the sticks were regulation Yut throwing sticks.


I had never played this game before, but got pressured into playing a game without knowing the rules. I just threw sticks around and Jongshil moved my pieces for me.

Eventually I figured out how it worked. The four sticks are like dice. Depending on how many of them land face up, you get to move a certain number of spaces around the board. I would have figured this out sooner, except that each throw has an archaic term associated with it instead of just the number, and people kept calling out these words that were completely meaningless to me.

Src: Wikipedia
The game is similar to Aggravation/Trouble, except the gameboard is smaller and offers three opportunities to cut through the center. Also, whenever someone makes an embarrassingly good throw, she has to stand up and do a dance.

To spice things up, we played for small amounts of money; the loser pays 2000 won to the victor of each game. I lost the first game, but then Unni and I teamed up and started raking in the cash. Unni has amazing luck throwing Yut sticks. I took a little video and managed to capture the moment when she won the first game for us with one amazing throw.

The little kids got money from their parents and gave it to us after they lost. After winning several games in a row Unni felt bad and wanted to give the kids their money back, but their parents refused. I agreed, saying it would be good for them to learn now about how bitterly disappointing life is.

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