Seollal – celebrating New Year in Korea

Seollal (설날) or Korean New Year is one of the things that I was very curious about when I came to visit Korea. Seollal is the first day of the lunar calendar and therefore it is the most important of the traditional Korean holidays.  It lasts three days, and is considered a more important holiday than the solar New Year’s Day (1st January). Korean New Year generally falls on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice.


In 2010 I experienced my first Seollal with my family in law. Early in the morning my father in law set up a table to honor to his ancestors with a ritual called cha rye (차례). The table was filled up with all kind of food and pictures of the ancestors and incense was burned. My father in law performed 3 deep bows to his ancestors.


In the past it was a tradition that Koreans dressed up in traditional hanbok. But nowadays, small families tend to become less formal and wear other formal clothing instead of hanbok. However, to do me a favor, my father in law was wearing his hanbok.

Since Seollal is typically a family holiday we had more visitors. My sisters and brother in law with their kids visited us and we all performed one deep traditional bow to my parents in law while saying the words `saehae bok mani badeuseyo` (새해 복 많이 받으세요) free translated as “receive many New Year blessings”. In return we all got a brand new 10.000 WON note.

For lunch we ate all kind of delicious food including Tteok-guk (떡국) a soup with sliced rice cakes which is usually served for the New Year.  Afternoon we visited Suwon Folk Village. It was very cold but very crowdy. At nighttime we came back home and ate some delicious mandu and songpyon (colored filled rice snacks). Actually eating too much tteok or songpyon late at night turned out badly. My stomach couldn`t digest all the rice and I couldn`t sleep at all. Next day my mother in law made me feel a lot better after hand acupuncture.

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