How Koreans Celebrate Lunar New Year

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seollal 2It’s a time for happiness and festivities because Lunar New Year, ‘Seollal’, is just around the corner in South Korea! FYI, this year 2016 is the ‘Year of the Red Monkey’. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the East Asian culture (which includes South Korea, China, etc), people in East Asia tend to believe in zodiac signs (especially the elders), and every year is represented by one of the 12 zodiac signs. For this year, it’s monkey. ;)

Seollal, which is considered as a major holiday season for the Koreans, usually lasts for 3 days. This year, with additional substitution holiday, it will be celebrated for 4 days in total from Feb 7th til 10th! During this period, most of the shops and restaurants will be closed, especially on the official day of Seollal (Feb 8th, 2016). So, keep that in mind if you’re planning to visit South Korea in February. 

But, major palaces, museums, and amusement parks do open up (just in case, check out the website to see if they are open during this holiday season before you go!). Various traditional events and cultural performances will be held at tourists sites for visitors, so there are still many fun things to do during this holiday season.

Of course, there will be a heavy traffic jam and it’ll be very difficult for travelers and tourists to purchase a train or bus ticket. So, try to avoid traveling to other provinces or regions around South Korea during this period!

Plus, you’ll find bunch of people buying gifts and everything they need for the preparation of the celebration at shopping malls and local markets on the days before Seollal. At any rate, let’s find out how Koreans celebrate Seollal!

1. Korean Traditional Dress ‘Hanbok’

traditional-775512_1920During Seollal, you might witness Koreans wearing an amazingly beautiful Korean traditional dress called ‘hanbok. Not every wear hanbok these days, wearing hanbok is becoming one of the popular fashion trends in Korea. 16390668300_00fced9282If you’re interested in trying out this traditional dress for a day, click here.

2. An Ancestral Rite, ‘Charye’

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In the early morning of the official day of Seollal, all the family members and relatives gather up and begin this ancestral rite and a preparation of the process called ‘charye‘. Women usually prepare dishes of ritual foods and set them on the ritual table. After the table is set, the men (in the order of elderly to the youngest) stand in front of the table and bow to the spirits of the ancestors first. Watch a video how ‘charye’ is done! ;)

So, basically, ‘charye’ is like paying a respect and gratitude to the ancestors.charyesang-687186

2. Bowing to Family Elders or ‘Sebae’610913500_9ccbfa47ab

Now, this is the exciting part! :) Family members would take turns (from the oldest to the youngest) and give a deep bow to the elderly and parents. Koreans call this bowing process, ‘sebae‘.

After the bow, parents or relatives would then give you money or ‘sebaetdon (New Year’s money)’ and words of blessing in return. Happy family time~! :)

3. Not-to-be-missed Seollal Food, ‘Tteokguk’

rice-cake-soup-650068After sebae comes the feast (finally)! On Lunar New Year’s Day, Koreans (almost everyone) eat ‘tteokguk (sliced rice cake soup)’. In Korea,eating tteokguk = a year added to one’s age. So, as a joke, Koreans say ‘the more dish of tteokguk you eat, the more you will get older in Korea!’6889876455_595e480884Try other Seollal foods as well, like ‘sanjeok’ (meat and vegetable brochette)’ and ‘buchimgae (Korean style pancake)’, and Korean traditional desserts like ‘yakgwa(honey cookie)’, ‘hangwa (traditional korean sweets)’ and ‘injeolmi (rice cake covered with bean flour)’. 16379714060_9b6da47feb

4. Play Traditional Games

Seollal is a perfect time for families to play some fun games together! The most popular traditional game played  is called ‘yutnori, which is a board game. 4009948347_2452968f09It’ll be much easier for you to understand the game if you think of it as a ‘Monopoly’, where you throw four wooden sticks instead of dice.

Other fun games include ‘jegichagi (a Korean shuttlecock game)’, ‘neoltwiggi (a Korean jumping game similar to see-sawing)’, and ‘tuho (a game where people throw sticks into a canister)’. Go out to parks and try ‘yeon-naligi (kite flying)’ as well!

5. Hang Lucky Bags on Trees

korean-folk-village-643931One of the traditional customs carried out on Seollal is hanging  ‘bokjumeoni’ or lucky bags on walls or trees. Koreans believe that these beautiful embroidered pockets bring good fortune and bliss to the holder.16390664170_c8535cb915Get one of these lucky bags as a souvenir or a gift for beloved ones. Hang them up on walls at home or on the branches of  trees and see if they really bring good luck! ;)

 Last but not least, watch this video that shows how Koreans generally spend the Lunar New Year in overall!

Now, go on and discover the genuine beauty of South Korea! It’s better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times! ;)

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Photo Credits:

2015_Seollal_03 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_09 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_24 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_23 via photopin (license)
Seoul_Station_20150216_02 via photopin (license)
설 명절과 마트 via photopin (license)
Seoul_Before_Seollal_Week_04 via photopin (license)
설 명절과 마트 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_17 via photopin (license)
IMG_2606 via photopin (license)
Seoul_Day_before_Seollal_20150218_15 via photopin (license)
Seoul_Day_before_Seollal_20150218_15 via photopin (license)
Celebrating Korean New Year in CA, USA via photopin (license)
IMG_0054 via photopin (license)
Seoul_Day_before_Seollal_20150218_15 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_18 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_14 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_01 via photopin (license)
2015_Seollal_02 via photopin (license)

 


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