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Among the most traditional and important celebrations in South Korea, there is Seollal (설날), the first day of the Lunar New Year.

Translation by Laura Fino and Angie Salavarria

Seollal began according to the lunar phases at the beginning of the winter solstice, with the second new winter moon. In 2021, it was celebrated on February 12, and was extended on February 23 and 24, in short, they celebrated for 3 days the new year. But what makes it so special? And how do they celebrate it?

Starting with the details of this incredible celebration, we can mention the clothing. Koreans wear their traditional costume called hanbok, a bright color clothing. When receiving the new year, it is important that this garment is new, because it symbolizes that they left the past behind, and it also attracts good fortune for the new coming year.

One of the events of Seollal occurs when Korean families prepare a ritual called charye, in which they perform a greeting to the ancestors, and an offerings table for them. This ritual represents the respect and love for their ancestors.

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Also, gifts cannot be missing. Among the most common gifts there is the exchange of food between close friends or relatives. The most characteristic foods are: meet, dried fish, fruits and the traditional Korean ginseng and hangwa (한과) biscuit. 

Another important custom that is performed during Seollal is the New Year’s bow: sebae. This is done with the aim of showing respect for the elderly. As we know, respect for older people is very important in Korea. For this reason, children or young people visit the elders and bow in their traditional costumes, wishing them a happy new year. In return, the elderly usually give them money as a gift.

El sebae es un ritual de piedad filial que se observa tradicionalmente en Seollal mientras los adultos presentan el sebaetdon, el dinero como regalo a los jóvenes. DB

Between the food and the harmony of Korean families, jegichagi (제기차기) is one of the traditional games to have a good time. This game consists of kicking a paper object called jegi and trying to keep it in the air. Among other popular games is the Korean fishing card game consisting of a flower deck of cards called hwatu (화투).

It is impressive to be able to learn about the most important traditions for Korean society. In effect, these celebrations show us the enjoyable time they share with families during this date of joy for one more year, a Korean New Year.

Written by: Marcela Rodriguez

Edited by: Adamaris Llampara


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