Korean New Year 2019 is celebrated on the 1st Jan, 2019, Tuesday and is an annual festival in Korea having its own specialities and rituals. It is celebrated on the first day of the Korean Lunar Calendar and doesn’t match with the New Year date as celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar and the whole of Korea comes to be united on the eve of New Year to welcome the upcoming year amidst great pomp and splendour.
- THE DATE OF THE KOREAN NEW YEAR
The date of the New Year varies each year according to the lunar movements and generally falls on the day when there is a new moon for the second time just after the winter solstice. In very rare occasions, it can fall on the day of the third moon just after the solstice but owing to its rarity, such an occasion will appear next not before 2033.
It also falls on the same day as the Chinese New Year until and unless it falls between Korean midnight and Chinese midnight. This too is a very rare event occurring once in 24 years when the Korean New Year will be on the day following Chinese New Year. Koreans follow a zodiac which is quite like the Chinese one with 12 animals representing 12 years with the rat/mouse being the first animal. In the year 2019, this year is said to be represented by the dog having its zodiac animal characteristics as the highlight points of the year.
- TRADITIONAL FOOD PREPARED FOR THE NEW YEAR
Tteokguk: This is a traditional food of the Koreans that they devour specially on the occasion of New Year and is generally describe as soup with sliced rice cakes. According to Korean History, the Korean New Year is considered to be equivalent to birthdays of Koreans and eating this customary dish is a part of the birthday celebrations. It’s believed that once you finish eating your tteokguk, you are now one year older. There are a lot of other dishes prepared on this day and much time is spent with family.
Jeon: This traditional Korean dish, also known as ‘buchimgae’ is particularly eaten on the New Year’s Day. As the dish is a savory pancake, it would be expected that it should be sliced with a knife and served. But Koreans rip it apart with the help of chop sticks as they believe it makes the taste better.
- SEBAE: KOREAN RITUAL
This is a tradition of worshiping the elders that is followed on the day of Korean New Year every year. On this day, the children of Korea dress up in their traditional attire and wish their elders including their grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles etc. a happy new year by saying the words ‘saehae bok mani badeuseyo’ which translates to wishing for the other person to receive good fortune on the occasion of New Year.
They also indulge in performing deep, intense customary bows while bowing more than once is usually done for the deceased. Elders reward the children with ‘New Year’s money which consists of crisp paper notes in silk bags that have traditional touches of the Korean culture. Elders also impart words of wisdom to the younger generations. Parents lovingly give out rice cakes and fruits among the children.
- CUSTOMS OF KOREAN NEW YEAR
The Korean New Year is essentially a family holiday that’s celebrated on a span of three days and is also known as ‘Seollal’. This three-day holiday consisting of the day before, the day itself and the day after is generally marked as an occasion for people to return to their hometowns to unite with their near and dear ones, sometimes even ones coming from abroad. This holiday is considered to be respectful to be attended and people first visit their elders like grandparents and parents and in laws.
During this time, gifts are exchanged among the family members and new clothes are worn. Many traditional dishes are prepared during this time and food prices reach amazing heights. Thus, the government has now started taking measures to increase food production during this time to meet the increased demand. On the first morning of the three day affair, Korean people pay their reverence to their ancestors by placing traditional food on a table and along with imparting deep bows, everyone prays for the well-being of the family.
Many of the Koreans prefer to don their colorful traditional attire known as the ‘hanbok’ and after the rituals are completed, all the members of the family indulge in a sumptuous feast. Another custom popularly followed during this time is the burning of what is called the ‘moon house’ which is built using burnable tree branches and firewood. This act symbolizes the keeping away of evil/bad spirits and wishes are also made for the New Year while the house is burned.
- FOLK GAMES PLAYED DURING THE NEW YEAR
The Korean New Year is associated with a number of traditional games. One of the most popular family board games, the ‘yutnori’ is especially played on this occasion. It’s played with a pack of specially designed sticks and is perfect for all ages and genders. It’s a tradition for the Korean boys and men to fly rectangle kites known as ‘Yeon’ and also play a game known as ‘jegichagi’. It’s a game where any light object is covered up in a piece of cloth or paper and then it’s hustled around in a football like manner.
The women and girls of the Korean community play the traditional game of ‘neolttwigi’ which is like a game of jumping on the seesaw. They also play a game known as ‘gongginori’ which is played using five ‘gonggi’ which actually means little stones. Another very popular traditional games played by the children is that of top spinning. Nowadays, adults have started replacing the game ‘hwatu’ with the modern game of Go-Stop.