설날(Seol-nal), New Year’s Day

세배

Upcoming 31st of January is traditionayl New Year’s Day in Korea.

Koreans celebrate New Year’s Day(Seolnal) at the starting day of the year on the lunar calendar and have done so for thousands of years. However, many Koreans now also celebrate the New Year at the start of the solar calendar (January 1). So these days, many Korean people in mainland and abroad celebrate New Year’s Day twice. But the one incomparably more important is the Lunar New Year.

Koreans distinguish those two different New Year’s Days by calling ‘신정(shin-jeong)’ for Solar New Year’s Day and ‘구정(gu-jeong)’ for Lunar New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day is a family holiday, and the Lunar New Year is a three-day holiday in Korea. Most people return to their hometown to spend time with family and relatives. The solar New Year is also a family day for Koreans, even for those who live in the western countries where it is usually more traditionally celebrated with friends.

Many Koreans dress up in colorful traditional Korean clothing called han-bok. But nowadays, small families tend to become less formal and wear other formal clothes instead of han-bok.

떡국(Tteok-guk (soup with sliced rice cakes)) is a traditional Korean food that is customarily eaten for the New Year’s Day. According to the age concept in Korea, the Korean New Year is similar to a birthday for Koreans, and eating tteok-guk is part of the birthday celebration. Once you finish eating your tteok-guk, you are one year older.

세배(Se-bae) is a traditionally observed activity on Lunar New Year’s Day, and is filial piety oriented. Children wish their elders (grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents) a happy new year by performing one deep traditional bow and the words 새해 복 많이 받으세요(saehae bok mani badeuseyo) which can be translated “Have a blessed New Year”. Parents typically reward this gesture by giving their children pocket money called 세뱃돈(se-baet-don) in luck bags made with beautiful silk design and offering words of wisdom 덕담(deok-dam).

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