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Immerse Yourself in Seollal Lunar New Year in South Korea

Updated on Mar 19, 2024 · By ENKOR

Immerse Yourself in Seollal Lunar New Year in South Korea

Happy New Year:
새해 복 많이 받으세요.
[saehae bok manhi badeuseyo]

Today, I'm delighted to introduce a special cultural celebration from South Korea "Seollal", also called Lunar New Year. The ancestral rites spans three days and immerses participants in age-old traditions, culinary delights, honoring ancestors, and the warmth of family ties. This celebration usually takes place at the end of January or the beginning of February. You will experience an event that stems from centuries of tradition and history.

The Rebirth of Seollal:

The adoption of the lunar calendar dates back to the Goguryeo dynasty (918-1392). For centuries, people have celebrated Seollal and preserved the tradition. Even when the Gregorian solar calendar, which we all know, became dominant and disrupted Korean customs.

However, the Japanese colonization (1910-1945) removed the custom from the calendar. Nevertheless, some continued to celebrate Seollal in secret to preserve ancestral traditions and resist oppression. The Korean government recognized the tradition as a national holiday in 1985.

Preparations for Seollal:

Before the arrival of Seollal, Korean families often undertake a thorough cleaning of their homes, known as "seollalchungso." This cleaning mean the removal of the old to welcome the new.

On the eve of Seollal, families gather to cook traditional dishes in large quantities. Among the most common dishes are "tteokguk" (rice cake soup), "jeon" (pancakes), "mandu" (Korean dumplings), and various salads.

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Korean traditional food

And then, as with many holidays, there is the buying of gifts for loved ones. If you receive an invitation to celebrate Seollal with a Korean family, you can buy fruits, traditional sweets (Hangwa), household items, or gift sets. Wrap the gifts in vibrant colors, as each color has a special meaning, and offer them with wishes for happiness and prosperity in the new year. This will symbolize courtesy and respect.

Explore the Cultural Richness of Seollal:

During this period, South Koreans often gather with family to celebrate traditions and show respect for ancestors and elders.

The day starts with the solemn "charye" ceremony, during which families meticulously arrange a variety of delicious offerings on a decorated table to honor their elders. An important ritual to ensure the protection and prosperity of the family. The dishes usually include rice, vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish.

This poignant ritual sets the stage for "sebae". A profound gesture of respect where younger family members bow to the ground before their elders. Expressing sincere wishes for a year full of prosperity and good fortune.

Once performed while wearing the country's traditional attire, "hanbok," this gesture is now less frequently observed in this attire. Newlyweds tend to wear it, or parents dress their young children in it.

In return, the elders give their blessing to the younger generation. Often accompanied by the customary gift of new banknotes. Symbolising a favourable start and financial abundance.

Families then engage in joyous competitions around traditional games such as:

  • Jaegichagi (제기차기): Involves juggling with a small ball called "jaegi." The goal is to keep it in the air for as long as possible, avoiding it touching the ground.
  • Tuho (투호): In this game, participants throw small sticks into large wooden containers. The goal is to get as many sticks as possible into the container.
  • Gonggi (공기): Players throw and catch small plastic or metal balls on the back of their hands.
  • Gimajeon(기마전): Is a traditional combat game where each team must form with two "horses" and a "rider." The opponents must catch the "daenggi" worn on the riders' backs.

While for some Europeans, New Year's is celebrated among friends, for many South Koreans, Seollal is a family event. Consider visiting South Korea at the end of January or beginning of February to discover its beauty. We invite you to experience Seollal with the Enkor family and to cherish human ties and timeless traditions. Happy Seollal to you all!

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