Korean New Year: How It’s Done

By Nicole Simpkin

Although slightly belated, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Goodbye 2018, and welcome 2019! Please be good to us! I hope you all enjoyed your New Year's celebrations, and whatever way you decided to waltz into the new year, why not take a moment look at the festivities that were happening—and that are set to happen—over in South Korea.

Let’s start from the beginning: If you didn’t know, New Year's in Korea is celebrated slightly differently than the way you and I may be familiar with. The major celebration and official holiday, lasting three whole days, begins at the start of the new lunar calendar, also known as Seollal, and this year falls on February 5.

During these three days of celebration you’ll find your Korean friends participating in many family activities such as visiting their relatives, eating traditional food—quite famously tteokguk (rice cake soup) and fried pancakes—wearing hanbok, and engaging in old folk games. It is also tradition for families to perform special rituals that are dedicated to four generations of their ancestors.

Younger members of the family will also bow to their elders—known as sebae (세배)—to wish them a happy new year in exchange for some allowance money.

The classic New Year's celebration that begins on the 1st of January, at the beginning of the solar solar calendar (known as Sinjeong in Korean), still occurs and is celebrated as is with the rest of the world—with a beautiful display of fireworks that never fail to amaze every onlooker.

So, there we have it! Now you know how New Year's celebrations are done in South Korea. Maybe you could walk into 2020 while in Korea next year, or even plan yourself a trip now and experience the atmosphere of the country during the Lunar New Year next month!

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