Heading to Seoul to check out what happens during Seollal? Or just curious about how Koreans ring in the new lunar new year? Here’s your total guide to what goes down!
by Rachelle “Roach”
What Are We Celebrating?
The Lunar New Year, of course! Many Eastern Asian countries observe the start of the year as the moon, as opposed to the sun, begins a new rotation. You can read more about the differences between the lunar and solar calendar here.
In Korea, the Lunar New Year is called Seollal, and we’re celebrating the Year of the Rooster!
When Is It?
Usually it’s sometime in January or February. This year, it’s January 28, 2017.
What Do We Do?
For starters, you get three or four days off from school or work. This is a big holiday for Koreans, and they take the time to celebrate it.
During that time, many Koreans head to their ancestral hometowns to spend time with family. If you don’t have a Korean family that you can hitch yourself to for the holiday, know that things might seem a little shut down or slow! You might want to prepare to stock up on some ramen and have a few K-dramas queued up while everyone else is laying low with their families.
Take a look at the traffic building up for this weekend in Korea!
What Are Some New Year Traditions?
The most important tradition is charye. It’s an ancestral ritual that’s also often performed on Chuseok, or the Korean thanksgiving. Family members dedicate a table filled with offerings like food and drinks to memorialize the relatives that have gone before them and keep them a part of the day’s festivities.
Another activity is playing traditional games like yut nori, a board game played with little sticks that may date back to ancient times.
What Should I Wear?
Do you have a hanbok, the traditional Korean formalwear? If so, put it on! This is one of the few days of the year where Koreans ditch the modern outfits and dust off their hanbok. The vibrant, swooshing fabrics bring an air of festivity to the celebrations.
What Do We Eat?
One of the most popular new year meals is tteokguk. It’s a comforting soup made with a clear bone broth, thinly sliced rice cakes, ground beef or tofu, and a little dried seaweed. It’s believed that when you eat a bowl of this tasty soup, you get another year older (it’s also served on birthdays). If you’re trying to stay young, no second helpings for you!
Do I Get Any Presents?
You might! Gift-giving is a part of Seollal, as people want their loved ones to start the new year as happy and prosperous as possible. It’s common to give gift sets, full of items like fruit, toiletries, ginseng, and that special Korean delicacy, Spam.
It’s also one of the days that younger Koreans perform saebae, or a formal bow, for their older relatives.
If all goes well with their bow, the younger family members will receive a gift of money from their elders. The gift givers try to give bills that are as crisp and new as possible. The money is commonly given in a little drawstring pouch called a bokjumeoni.
For the second time this year (and for the first on the lunar calendar), have a wonderful new year! 😊