Counting Down for the New Year in Korea

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People gather for the bell-ringing ceremony at the Boshingak belfry every New Year's day.
People gather for the bell-ringing ceremony at the Boshingak belfry every New Year’s day.

Another year has come. January 1st, the first day of the year, carries significant meaning to everyone around the world, signalling a new beginning, a turning point. Everyone celebrates the New Year in their own way. Koreans have their own traditions when it comes to  greeting the first day of the year.

What a great way it is to start the first day of the year with the first sunrise. It is believed that the first sunrise of the year symbolizes the new hope and new beginning. People gather at the tops of the mountains or at the seasides early in the morning hoping that, like the rising sun, the new year would be full of happiness, hope, and good fortune.

New Years Countdown is another big part of the new years celebrations. In the United States, the countdowns are held in many different places, but there is one nationally televised countdown celebration in New York’s Times Square. Similarly in Korea, there is one national countdown which is broadcast live all over the peninsula: the bell-ringing ceremony at the Boshingak belfry located in Jongno-gu, Seoul. This bell-ringing ceremony represents the citizens’ hopes for a healthy, prosperous, and happy new year. It started in 1953, and is one of the many traditions handed down from the Cho-sun Dynasty that we still keep. The bell is rung exactly thirty three times from midnight because ancestors believed that it takes 33 rings for our hopes and wishes to get to the “heaven.”

On top of these celebrations, individuals greet the new year by simply exchanging new years gifts. Gifts do not need to be pricy, it is just to show the affection and their wishes for the future. Also many South Korean companies hold large company gatherings in the beginning of the year. These gatherings could be a simple meal or an entire company retreat. The aim of these gatherings is to bring people together in order to raise spirits for the year ahead.

 

By Hailey Cho