Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day; first day of the lunar calendar) is one of the most celebrated national holidays in Korea. This year, Seollal falls on February 1 of the Gregorian calendar. Seollal is a time for Koreans to return to their hometowns to pay respect to their ancestors, as well as 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.
* Social distancing measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are expected to remain in place until Seollal; limited traveling is advised.
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.
The morning of Seollal begins with 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, the family 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 and white rice cakes of tteokguk are 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.
* Attractions may be closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We advise you to check details before visiting.
|Namsangol Hanok Village||Gyeongbokgung Palace||Lotte World Tower & Mall|
|Samcheongdonggil Road||Seoul Museum of History||Starfield COEX Mall|
|The National Museum of Korea||Korean Folk Village||Changdeokgung Palace Complex|
|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 January 2022, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.