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Korean New Year ‘Seollal’ 101: for those who need ultimate guide

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Kindergartners in hanbok, or traditional Korean attire, learn how to take a deep bow on Jan. 12 in Busan. [SONG BONG-GEUN]
Kindergartners in hanbok, or traditional Korean attire, learn how to take a new year’s bow on Jan. 12 in Busan, Korea. [SONG BONG-GEUN, JoongAng Ilbo]
The Lunar New Year “Seollal” is one of the most important traditional holidays in Korea. A Lunar calendar is a calendar based on the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases, so the dates of the holiday vary slightly from year to year. “Seollal” of this year is on January 22.


Even though Lunar New Year is usually celebrated in Asian countries, we can see that interest in this holiday is increasing around the world recently. California has designated Lunar New Year as an official state holiday starting this year to “acknowledge the diversity and cultural significance Asian Americans bring to California,” Gov. Gavin Newsome said. Furthermore, the Disney channel’s hit series “Mickey Mouse Funhouse,” which will air this Sunday, also includes characters wearing Korean traditional clothes “hanbok“, cooking Korean food “tteok-guk“, and introducing Korean New Year.


@katchup_news Jan. 22 is the lunar new year, and among many Asian countries, Korea also has its unique way of celebrating it. Here’s what you need to know about Korean New Year, Seollal #fyp #news #lunarnewyear #seollal #asian #korean #history #holidays #yearofrabbit🐇 ♬ Information technology – TimTaj

How does Korea celebrate the Lunar New Year “Seollal“?


A bowl of rice cake soup, tteok-guk [The Korea Daily]
  1. Eat one bowl of tteok-guk and become one year older on Korean New Year

The main dish for the Seollal is tteok-guk, a rice cake soup. The clear broth and white rice cakes symbolize a clean start to the new year.

According to the Korean age system, Korean count their ages from the first day of the lunar year. Once you finish eating a bowl of tteok-guk, you become one year older. This is a custom used generally in Korea. It could be shown by a long-ago book, which is written by Kim Mae-soon, a scholar during the Joseon dynasty, in 1819. The scholar recorded “people say ‘how many bowls of rice cake soup have you eaten so far?’ to ask children their age.”

However, Korea is to scrap its traditional method of counting ages and adopt the international standard this year. This culture may disappear someday.


2. Do new year’s traditional bow “Sebae” and get a new year’s money “Sebaet Don

On the Seollal, Korean get up early in the morning and put on new clothes or hanbok. They perform the ancestral memorial ceremony or do new year’s traditional bows, Sebae, to their elders by saying the words ‘saehae bok mani badeuseyo’ (Hope you get a lot of good fortune for the new year).

After the kowtows, the elder members of the family typically reward this gesture by giving children new year’s money called ‘sebaet don’ as well as offering good advice realized from the wisdom of their lives.


CJ제일제당이 100% 종이 패키지로 만든 '세이브 어스 초이스' 추석 선물세트 등을 소개하고 있다. [사진 CJ제일제당]
CJ CheilJedang is introducing “Save Earth Choice” gift sets made from 100% recycling paper packages [CJ CheilJedang]
3. A spam gift set is a popular gift item for Seollal in Korea 

There is an old custom of giving gifts to express gratitude to people around during the traditional holidays, especially seollal and chuseok. A spam gift set is a popular gift not missing every year.

Even though spam has been recognized as a cheap canned ham product in western, Korean loves spam as a side dish. This is because it is simple to cook and goes well with rice, which is a staple food of Asians.

In addition, as the trend of cost-effective consumption spread in the 2000s, sales of spam with reasonable prices continues to grow. the more difficult the economy is, the more low-priced gift under $50 such as a spam gift set or an olive oil gift set will be sold during the holiday season.


By Gyeongeun Park