• 최종편집 2020-08-04(화)

Celebrating Seollal in Korea: A Glimpse of Local Customs

다문화가족을 위한 한국문화안내, 설날의 유래와 관습 등 설날의 모든 것

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기사입력 : 2020.01.28 10:59
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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.


Before Seollal: Busy with preparations!

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 day of Seollal: New Year’s greeting and traditional games!

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.


Traditional game to enjoy on Seollal, yunnori

Seollal is an opportunity for the entire family to engage in fun activities together. The most common activity is yunnori, a traditional board game. This game is so easy to learn that all family members, regardless of age, can enjoy playing. Yunnori is played by throwing four sticks and moving your game markers around the board depending on the number of up-facing sticks. Each team has four markers and the first team to get all four of their markers around the board wins.


Why is 2020 the year of the mouse?

Every year is represented by one of the twelve zodiac signs, which take the form of twelve guardian animal deities collectively known as Sibijisin. These signs change with every year, rotating over a 12-year cycle. In the past, it was widely believed that Sibijisin had an influence over one’s fate and character. These days, many Koreans check their yearly fortune horoscope just for fun by comparing their zodiac sign with the New Year’s zodiac sign.

 

The year 2020 is referred to as Gyeongjanyeon (‘Gyeong-‘ meaning white, and ‘-ja’ meaning mouse) or “The Year of the White Mouse.” The mouse is considered a fast and clever animal, associated with the accumulation of material items. The mouse is the first animal deity among the Sibijisin, which literally means "twelve (sibi) gods of the earth (jisin).

 

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