Date: Traditional Korean New Year goes by the name of Seollal. This is celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar. However, Korea does not stop at celebrating their traditional New Year only. They also celebrate with much zeal and zest the modern day new year on January 1.

As such, New Year in Korea is celebrated twice, once in accordance to the modern day Gregorian calendar, and then again following the traditions as per the lunar calendar. The sate for Korean New Year Seollal in the year 2015 is Thursday, February 19.

Overview: Seollal is considered to be the most important of all the traditional holidays that are observed in Korea. The first day of the lunar calendar is observed to be the traditional Korean New Year. This is the day that comes on the second new moon after the day of the winter solstice.

However, in very rare cases exceptions are noticed – this happens when an intercalary eleventh or twelfth month comes in between the months leading up to the lunar New Year. When such an incident happens celestially, then the traditional Korean New Year celebrations get postponed to the third new moon day after the winter solstice. Traditionally, the Korean New Year celebrations last for three days.

Traditional Customs: Seollal is a traditional celebration that involves only close friends and family members. This is the time of the year when people head back home or hometown to unite with family and friends. By family, extended family and even in laws are included. Even if people reside away from their hometown for whatever reason, when it is time to celebrate traditional Korean New Year, the celebrations are not complete unless celebrated at home with family, relatives and the intimate circle of friends. People are seen to adorn the traditional clothing that goes by the name of hanbok. The other traditional Korean New Year celebrations include –

  • Charye – In Korea, the traditional New Year is the time for people to visit their family or ancestral home. There it is the custom to perform a ritual dedicated to the ancestors. This is in essence a memorial service dedicated to the ancestors.
  • Sebae — Sebae is the tradition of taking a deep bow before the elders as a mark of respect. In return, the elders bless the younger ones and wish them luck in the upcoming year, and usually gift them some money in beautiful Korean silk bags.
  • Soju – This colorless alcohol is made from rice, wheat and barley that is part of the customs involving the New Year celebrations. As per the traditions, the elders are supposed to hand glasses of soju around. The custom is to never fill glasses until they are empty, and also to fill up glasses of others and not of self. It is considered that consuming Soju will help to keep one healthy and also help to drive away any bad aura, and make the New Year a lucky and healthy one.
  • Tteokguk – This soup made up of sliced rice cakes is an essential part of traditional celebrations, be it birthdays or New Year. Having it is considered auspicious.
  • Folk games – Some games and sports are associated with New Year celebrations in Korea, and are played with much fervor. Kite Flying is one of them. A popular board game is known as Yunnori. Other games are also played, like, gonggi, neolttwigi, jegichagi etc.

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