Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day; first day of the lunar calendar) is one of the most celebrated national holidays in Korea. While many observe Sinjeong (Solar New Year; January 1 of the Gregorian/Western calendar), Koreans also celebrate Seollal, which usually lasts for three days (the day of, the day before, and the day after). This year, Seollal falls on January 25 of the Gregorian calendar.
More than just a holiday to mark the beginning of a new year, Seollal is truly a special occasion for Korean people. Not only is it a time for paying respect to ancestors, but it is also an opportunity to catch up with family members. During Seollal, Koreans usually perform ancestral rites, play folk games, eat traditional foods, listen to stories and talk well into the night. Read on to discover how Koreans celebrate Seollal.
In Korea, the rush to prepare for Seollal begins days beforehand. Food is prepared in advance and people begin to purchase and package gifts for their parents and relatives. Another crucial part of preparing for Seollal for many people is making travel arrangements to visit their hometowns. There is a mad rush to book buses, trains, or plane tickets before they all sell out. Traveling during the holidays can take two to four times the normal travel time due to heavy traffic.
Celebrations have changed from the past but in general, the morning of Seollal begins with the family members gathering in their seolbim (special clothing for Seollal) for an ancestral rite. The ritual is conducted to express respect and gratitude to one’s ancestors. Following the rite, everyone gathers together and eats the ritual food. The main dish of the day is tteokguk, a traditional soup made with sliced rice cakes, beef, egg, vegetables, and other ingredients. In Korea, the clear broth of tteokguk is believed to symbolize starting out the year with a clean mind and body.
After the meal, the younger generations of the family pay respect to their elders by taking a deep bow called sebae. Then, the elders offer their blessings and wishes for a prosperous year. Children often receive sebaetdon (New Year’s money) as a Seollal gift. For the remainder of the day, family members play traditional folk games, eat food, and share stories.
|Namsangol Hanok Village||Gyeongbokgung Palace||Lotte World Tower & Mall|
|Samcheongdong-gil Road||Seoul Museum of History||Starfield COEX Mall|
|The National Museum of Korea||Korean Folk Village||Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon|
|National Gugak Center(Credit: National Gugak Center)||Deoksugung Palace||Jongmyo Shrine|
|Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)||Seoul Arts Center(Credit: Seoul Arts Center)||Myeong-dong|
* This column was last updated in December 2019, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.