The Korean New Year, also known as Seollal, will be celebrated on January 22 this year. The New Year is celebrated annually in Korea on the second new moon following the winter solstice, which occurs in January or February unless an intercalary 11th or 12th month occurs prior to the New Year. The Korean New Year begins today. For Koreans, this is among the most significant holidays celebrated annually.
Families from all over Korea travel to the home of the oldest male relative to honor the deceased and the elders of the family. The ritual of ancestor worship is at the heart of the celebration, but other traditions, such as “Sebae,” in which young people and students pay respect to their elders and are given small monetary gifts, also play an important role.
Known as “charye,” this is a highly structured practice of ancestor veneration that is performed annually by members of the family. Food is prepared by female relatives and served to ancestors by male relatives during the Charye ritual.
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Eating the food and receiving the ancestors’ blessing for the coming year is the final step of the ceremony, known as “eumbok,” which is performed by people of both sexes. While regional variations exist in how the ancestors’ food is prepared, common practices such as where the food is presented remain consistent.
The cuisine served at a charye ceremony may vary from region to region, but staples like rice, soup, meat, seafood, liquor, fruit, and vegetables are universal. Ddeokguk, a type of rice cake soup that is popular year-round but has special significance on Seollal, is another example of a dish that is eaten in large quantities during this holiday.
Since finishing a bowl of ddeokguk signifies a person’s lunar calendar birthday, it is especially exciting for children. There have been unconfirmed reports of young people trying to gain more than a year in height by eating large quantities of ddeokguk, but experts can’t agree on whether or not this actually works.
People spend days preparing large amounts of food for Seollal, much like they do for Chuseok (the Korean Thanksgiving), which can lead to “Myung Cheol Chung Hu Kun,” or “Post-Holiday Trauma.” Exhaustion during the holidays may also result from having to drive long distances to visit family, indulging in too much delicious food, or cleaning up after a houseful of guests has left.
The Origins Of The Korean New Year
The Korean lunar new year, or Seollal, is a cultural holiday with its origins in classical Chinese Confucianism. The celebration typically spans the three days leading up to and following the Korean New Year.
The ancient kingdom of Silla, which existed from 57 B.C. to 935 A.D. and was known for its celebration of Seollal, is first mentioned in the “Book of Sui” and the “Book of Tang.” Records from the Joseon dynasty, a powerful dynasty that ruled from 1392 to 1897, show that government officials frequently gathered in the five grand palaces to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
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Seollal is a distinctive Korean custom that follows the lunar calendar and has its roots in Chinese culture. Every 12 years, the cycle begins again, with a new animal to represent each year. These 12 creatures include a mouse, an ox, a tiger, a rabbit, a dragon, a snake, a horse, a sheep, a monkey, a rooster, a dog, and a pig. It is believed that the order of the animals is based on the order in which they were invited to see Buddha.
For Koreans, a child takes on the personality traits of the animal whose year they were born. Some families even choose the year their child will be born based on this superstition.
Facts About The Korean New Year
- People in Korea keep their shoes hidden because they believe that if a pair of a person’s shoes goes missing, it is because ghosts have taken them away, and that person will have bad luck for the entire year as a result.
- People get up very early in the morning to make the trek to the market to purchase “bokjori,” which are bamboo strainers that are hung up high on the walls of people’s homes in order to bring or catch good luck and fortune.
- Following the completion of the meal, the younger members of each family participate in a ceremony known as “sebae,” also known as the “New Year’s bow,” which consists of a deep bow.
- The practice of preparing special foods to honor one’s ancestors and calling this practice “charye” is common among Koreans because of their cultural belief that their ancestors visit them on the holiday of Seollal.
- To commemorate such a momentous occasion, many people choose to dress in traditional garb. For example, South Koreans traditionally celebrate this holiday by donning hanbok, which is characterized by intricately embroidered designs and vibrant colors.