In South Korea, Seollal is one of the largest holidays of the year. Seollal celebrates the lunar New Year.
|2019||4 Feb to 6 Feb||Mon to Wed||Seollal|
|2020||24 Jan to 26 Jan||Fri to Sun||Seollal|
The primary purpose of Seollal is to pay respect to ancestors, but it has also become a mechanism of keeping families together. As parents and siblings drift apart due to work, school, marriage, and other obligations, Seollal brings the family back together for a time of respect of happiness. The people of South Korea often receive time off to celebrate the five-day holiday. During this time, people will spend happy moments with their relatives while they rest for the New Year.
Prior to the Seollal celebration, people celebrating have many preparations to make. In South Korea, many gifts are given, so there is much shopping to be done. People must also travel to a single location to celebrate with their families, so transportation must be arranged. Seollal is one of the busiest travel periods for South Korea, so it is important for people to purchase tickets and book accommodations well in advance. Food must also be purchased for the family meals and ancestral rites. Once all of the preparations are completed, it is time for an enjoyable holiday to enjoy with the family.
Gift giving has become a major aspect of the Seollal holiday in South Korea. While the types of gifts given will vary depending on financial situations, individual preference, and family traditions, there are some gifts that are standard for the holiday. Nowadays, some of the most frequently gifted presents include money and gift cards to department stores and shops. Children often give gifts like ginseng and health products to their parents. Other popular gift choices include toiletries, sweets, fish, and fruit.
- Ancestral Rites
On the morning of the Seollal holiday, family members off ancestral rites to their deceased relatives. These rites are relatively humble, but they usually consist of simple ritual foods and good prayers. The purpose of these rites is to honor the memory of ancestors and wish them good fortune.
During the day of Seollal, it is common for people celebrating the holiday to play games with each other. One of the most popular games is yutnori. Yutnori is a board game played with sticks and has fairly simple rules. It can be played in teams, so all members of the family can engage in some fun competition to reconnect during the New Year holiday. One of the other major activities to celebrate during the lunar New Year in South Korea is yeon-naligi. Yeon-naligi is the Korean term for kite flying. If the weather is nice, both children and adults go outside to fly brightly colored kites in the sky. Meanwhile, members of the family will share stories about the past year. Popular topics include love interests, job promotions, jokes, and the future. Speaking about disease, death, and other dark topics is frowned upon during Seollal.
During meals and Seollal celebrations in South Korea, it is customary for all members of the family to wear hanbok, the traditional garb of Korean people. These clothes are simple dresses for women or vests and pants for men. Hanbok outfits often are often colored with bright reds, pinks, or oranges.
Seollal is known for its large feast of traditional Korean food. One of the main dishes during this holiday is tteokguk. Tteokguk is a soup made of beef, vegetables, egg, and rice cakes. According to Korean traditions, this dish is supposed to promote longevity through life-extending properties. Galbijjim is another dish commonly enjoyed during Seollal. Galbijjim are beef short ribs that are steamed and sliced into small pieces and cooked in a pot of soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, scallions, and sugar. The dish is slow cooked so that the meat is tender and full of a savory flavor. These dishes are sometimes paired with three-color namul, a popular Korean vegetable dish. While the exact composition of the dish varies depending on area and preference, the three-color namul is made up of three vegetables that are colored green, white, and brown. Popular choices include spinach, fern shoots, and balloon flower roots. After finishing a meal during the lunar New Year in Korea, it is customary for the entire family to pay respect to ancestors with a brief prayer.
Places to Celebrate
Many families in South Korea use Seollal as an opportunity to travel while enjoying each other’s companies. Cities and various recreation areas are often not very crowded during this holiday, so these can be ideal places to visit :
- National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea in Seoul is a location where people can enjoy about the history of Korea during Seollal. It houses many pieces of art and artifacts that can be appreciated by people of the family. The National Museum of Korea also hosts various cultural events during the lunar New Year holiday.
- Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon
Changdeokgung Palace is a historical location that has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. At this location, families can view historical architecture and check out some beautiful sites such as the rear garden, a place with a large tree that is over 300 years old.
Seollal is a lunar New Year celebration that emphasizes family closeness and happiness.