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Friday, January 20, 2012


This coming Sunday, January 23, Koreans will be celebrating the Lunar New Year or Seollal (설날). Like Chuseok (추석), this event is considered as one of the major celebrations of Koreans every year. Koreans also celebrate the Solar New Year (which is January 1 in the Gregorian calendar), but Seollal is considered as a more important event than the Solar New Year. Celebrations for Seollal last for three days. [Author's Note: which means no work for me on Monday and Tuesday. YEY!]

So how do Koreans celebrate this special event?

More than being a national holiday and a time to honor their ancestors, this is also a chance for Koreans to go to their hometown and catch up with their family members--or some sort of a family reunion, so to speak. They eat traditional food and play traditional games, too. It's a common scene for people to be seen wearing a hanbok (한복) or the Korean traditional dress, which according to them, symbolizes a new beginning.

Yunho wearing a hanbok. ^^ Biased much. :P

Preparations for the Seollal celebration are quite demanding, so people buy gifts early. Common gifts given to family members come in the form of cash and gift cards from department stores. Others prefer giving special gifts such as ginseng, honey, or food. Travel arrangements are also made in advance so as to prevent the terrible traffic congestion in cities.

Food served during Seollal is given utmost importance. Housewives spend a whole day preparing the food to be offered to the ancestors and to be served to the family members. Rice cake soup or tteokguk (떡국) is the representative food of the event. According to my one of students, it was believed that eating it adds one year to a person's age.

This is the tteokguk. Looks delicious! ^^

Food served during the Seollal. So yummy!! :)

Other kinds of food are also served during the Seollal: fruits, japchae (잡채), Korean pancakes, and lots of side dishes, much to the delight of the family members.

After eating, the younger generation of the family bows down to their elders, or jeol (절) and present them with gifts. Confucianism has a very strong influence to the Korean culture, so bowing to the elders is extremely important. Light bowing is not enough, they have to do the deep bow, just like what Muslims do. The bow made during Seollal is called sebae (세배), and this is done by getting down on both knees and then bending towards the floor.

This is how sebae is done.

This is the sebae done in front of the ancestors' tablets.

After the sebae, the elders give the younger members of the family sebaetdon (세뱃돈), or new year's money. The elders also give words of wisdom and their blessings. The celebration ends with traditional games like yutnori (윷놀이), which is usually played during Seollal and lots of laughs from the family members.

Children receiving sebaetdon from their elders. ^^ Just like what children receive during Christmas. :)

새해 복 많이 받으세요 ^^

Credits to the owners of the pictures ^^

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