Seollal is one of the important traditional Korean holidays in the Korean culture. This national holiday commemorates the first day of the Korean Lunar Calendar. The holiday takes place over several days. It is marked by the gathering of family members, performing Korean rituals, eating traditional foods, playing traditional folk games, and other traditional activities.
The history of Seollal has begun by celebrating the new year as a way to honor ancestor spirits and bring in a bountiful harvest. These customs were carried on throughout generations and have changed, but the essence has remained the same. The festival is deeply intertwined with Korean folklore and the lunar calendar.
While Christmas in Korea is usually a time for celebrating with friends or for going on dates, Seollal, like Chuseok, is more of a family-based celebration. Many Koreans travel back to their family homes during this period.
Sebae is the most important of all the Korean Lunar New Year traditions. Sebae is the act of kneeling on the ground and bowing deeply so that your hands are also on the ground. Younger people must bow deeply to their elders and wish them a happy new year. This deep traditional bow signifies respect.
People often wear hanbok, traditional clothing in Korea, whilst performing sebae. When bowing, you can say saehae bok mani badeuseyo, which means “Have lots of luck in the new year.”
After receiving a bow from their younger, the elders then say something along the lines of “I hope you stay healthy this year” or “I hope you get married this year” to their younger. Elders typically reward their youngers with money, known as sebaetdon, to their youngers. This money is often given inside an envelope.
Another important tradition is charye. This term is used to describe the worshiping of one’s ancestors during the Lunar New Year. Food is set out on a table as a gift for one’s ancestors, behind which are the family’s ancestral tablets.
People perform deep bows on these tables in order to show respect to their ancestors. This tradition is still performed by many South Koreans, but it isn’t quite as widespread as the other Seollal traditions.
Just like how Western families often play board games at Christmas, Korean families often play traditional games together during Seollal.
One of the most popular games is yunnori, pronounced yut-nori or yunnori. This traditional board game is played between two teams and requires four special sticks. These sticks are curved on one side and flat on the other. Teams take turns throwing the four sticks in the air. The way that the sticks land determines how far the players move around the board.
Children also enjoy neolttwigi (seesaw jumping) and tuho (arrow throwing), while adults may engage in spirited rounds of hwatu (card games). These games are not just entertainment but a way to pass on cultural heritage.
The culinary aspect of Seollal is as important as the rituals. Tables are laden with delicacies like Jeon (savory pancakes), Japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), and an array of side dishes.
If you want to experience a traditional Korean Lunar New Year, then your best bet would be to get invited to a Korean family’s house.
According to 90daykorean