Game On! Folk Games Enjoyed During Seollal

By Hamsini Pratapa

Seollal is a festival that's highly anticipated each year in Korea as it marks the start of the Korean Lunar New Year. Celebrations, of course, are carried out with pomp and splendor!

Besides the food and sacred customs passed down through generations, there are many traditional games enjoyed by children and adults alike. Here are some of the most popular games played during Seollal that are definitely worth becoming popular internationally!

  • Yeonnalligi 

Essentially kite-flying, yeonnalligi involves rectangular Korean kites (yeon) made from bamboo, generally flown by men and boys. To make their kites really stand out in the skies, they are usually painted in many vibrant colors. Yeon is flown with the belief that they will ward off bad luck and ensure a new year filled with good energy. 

  • Neolttwigi

Women and girls, on the other hand, enjoy neolttwigi, a game that involves jumping up and down on a seesaw. It differs from playing on a regular seesaw as it involves standing on it, rather than sitting down. Neolttwigi is a rather difficult game to play as it requires balance and focus, but it can be extremely fun! It is said to improve women’s health, but perhaps that is true of everyone since jumping can be a real workout.

  • Paengi

A game typically enjoyed by Korean children, paengi involves spinning wooden tops in a battle wherein the players’ tops are spun in an enclosed space. Players' tops must knock down their opponents’ tops. Paengi could also be played using little "obstacles" that the tops could knock off for extra points. Besides battles, children try to perform tricks with their spinning tops, such as trying to make them bounce in the air for a moment or two.

  • Hwatu

Also known as Matgo or Godori, or the modern variant Go-Stop, Hwatu is a Korean card game played by up to four people, where the objective is to score a certain number of points (generally three or seven) with their deck of five cards. If a “Go” is called out, the game continues as the points and money stakes increase two-fold, three-fold and even four-fold, until a “Stop” is called and the caller rakes in their cash. It’s not as simple as that – calling out a “Go” is risky because there might be a player who scores the right amount of points needed. Perfect for a little family gambling night!

Which of these games appeals the most to you? Do you plan on trying out any of these to spice up your quality time with family? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Hamsini Pratapa

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