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Korean Lunar New Years

2023-01-03


Korean Lunar New Years


One of the most important Korean holidays besides Chuseok is Solnal which celebrates New Year’s Day and falls between January 20 and February 21. Although most countries consider January 1st to be the start of a new year, some Asian cultures celebrate New Year’s according to the lunar calendar. Solnal usually falls on the second new moon following the winter solstice. It is a three-day event in Korea where most people spend time with their families to honor ancestors. Traditionally, families would begin by performing seh bae by deep bowing to their elders to pay respect. Koreans would also wear the traditional dress hanbok to perform this ceremonial ritual. In return, children receive gifts of money and words of wisdom as a blessing for the New Years.


A traditional typical New Year’s meal would be a soup served with rice cakes called duk guk. The white rice cakes in the soup represent a clean start and new beginnings. Some other common dishes prepared are soup, meat, seafood, liquor, fruits and vegetables. Jeon, a fritter made from fish, meat or vegetables is a staple dish presented. Japchae, a glass noodles stir fried with meat and vegetables is another popular dish centralized around New Years. Food is a big part of the ritual as it represents honor to the ancestors.


After meal time, it is followed by casual traditional games such as yutnori. It is a type of board game that involves throwing 4 wooden sticks flat on one side and rounded on the other. Another popular outdoor activity is kite-flying and noltigi, Korea’s version of the seesaw which is done standing. GoStop, another favorite game which involves betting of small sums of money and is played by 2 or 3 people using Hwatu cards. Hwatu means “Battle of Flowers” and has 48 cards in the deck with colorful images.


Seolnal is a time of celebration of remembering and paying respect to ancestors & elders. It allows us to see how Koreans value and celebrate life and the changing of the seasons. Koreans might also visit their ancestor’s graves to further show respect. The capital of Seoul also becomes quiet as people leave the city to spend time with their families. National museums are open except for on the day of Seolnal and holds a range of activities. Tourists should check the opening times before visiting and find out whether tickets are required.  

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