Seollal is the most celebrated holiday in South Korea. It’s celebrated not only to mark the passage into a new year, but it is also a time for families to catch up with each other, pay respect to ancestors and to feast! Korean Lunar New Year marks the first day of the lunar calendar. It is the first day of the second new moon after winter solstice. The exact day of the lunar new year will vary from year to year.
Seollal’s celebration lasts for three days, starting the day before and ending the day after the Lunar New Year. It’s a public holiday in South Korea; many businesses are closed during this time and paid leave is given so families can travel. Nowadays many Koreans also celebrate the Gregorian calendar New Year’s day on January 1st; however, it is not as big of a celebration.
Many preparations go into celebrating the Korean New Year. During the first morning, Koreans pay their respect towards their ancestors. Traditional foods are placed on a table as an offering to the ancestors, and a rite begins with deep bows from all family members. This is a sign of respect and a very important practice on the first day of the New Year in Korea. It is also where they pray for the well-being of all the family members.
Many Koreans dress up in colourful traditional Korean clothing called hanbok. Hanbok is usually worn for special occasions such as weddings, Korean New Year, child’s first birthday, etc. However, with modernization and evolving mores in the culture, more people tend to prefer westernized, modern clothing to the hanbok. After the rite, the members have a big feast.
Sebae (worship elders) is a ritual of filial piety that is traditionally observed on Seollal. After the meal, the kids (or any young family member) perform a New Year’s bow, or sebae, to an elder family member in exchange for blessings and sebaedon. All the sebaedon received is then put into a fortune pouch called a bokjumeoni.