New Years in Korea is twice as nice with Sinjeong and Seollal, but one is a bit more special than the other!
by Rachelle "Roach"
The celebrations that take place at midnight in Seoul will look similar to the ones in other cities across the world: confetti flying, music bumping, drinks flowing, and fireworks popping to usher in the Year of the Rooster! Koreans also will visit the east coast of the peninsula to catch a glimpse of the first sunrise of the year, as you can see in the above image.
But when all the decorations have been cleaned up and the hangovers have been reckoned with, Koreans will celebrate a more culturally significant day. A few weeks later, it'll be time for Seollal, or the Lunar New Year. The world's numbered years are based on the Gregorian, or Solar calendar, counting one year as the 365 days it takes for Earth to go around the sun. Korea has used that calendar to track its years since 1896, and it will be 2017 in Korea on January 1 the same way it will be around the rest of the world. But the country, along with several other East Asian nations, observes the start of each new year based on the Lunar calendar, which has 354 days.
So, while the Koreans aren't ones to pass up on a good party on Sinjeong, or December 31, the country's big day comes a few weeks after the Western part of the world. Seollal almost always falls on the same day as Chinese New Year, the most widely known Lunar New Year celebration worldwide. (The exception is when the new moon happens to fall in the hour between when Korea's clocks chime midnight and China's do; this only happens about once every 25 years or so. The difference between the two celebrations would then just be one day.) This year, the big day is January 28. It's a three-day holiday for most Koreans. Many spend the days traveling to their ancestral homes, spending time with families, and bestowing gifts and good wishes upon their loved ones.
On Seollal, Koreans will perform jeol and bow to their elders in respect. The elders will give them blessings for the new year, along with money to help them along! The traditional meal on Seollal (and Sinjeong, too) is tteokguk, a bone broth soup made with thinly sliced rice cakes, marinated meat, and dried seaweed. It's also popular on birthdays, with some of the same significance. As you're celebrating getting older and making another trip around the sun, tteokguk is thought to bring the eater good luck and happiness.
This year, if January 1 isn't enough celebration for you, make a go of it again when the new moon comes around.