While Chinese New Year often dominates the western media, this year, in celebration of the Lunar New Year, we feature Seollal, the Korean Lunar New Year by highlighting some observances that are particularly Korean.
The holiday is celebrated for three days: in 2019 the first day of the Lunar calendar falls on February 5th, so Seollal is celebrated on that day, the day before and the day after.
As with other Asian traditions the New Year is a time for family reunions. Relatives clog roads and airports to visit the elder relatives. In the tradition of sehbeh children wish parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles a happy and prosperous year with a deep bow and recite a greeting. Then they receive the gift of money. Many Koreans dress up in colorful traditional Korean clothing called hanbok.
On the morning of the Seollal holiday, family members offer ancestral rites to their deceased relatives. These rites consist of ritual foods and prayers to honor the memory of ancestors and wish them good fortune.
According to Korean culture, one is a year old at birth. The Lunar New Year marks the traditional celebration of growing a year older. Ddeokguk, a rice cake soup, is part of the new year, new age celebration. Everyone eats the soup together, symbolically becoming a year older after the soup is finished.
During the day of Seollal, it is common for people celebrating the holiday to play games together. One of the most popular games is yutnori, a board game that can be played in teams, so all members of the family can engage in some fun competition to reconnect.
One of the other major activities is yeon-naligi, flying kites. If the weather is nice, both children and adults go outside to fly brightly colored kites in the sky. Other members of the family will share stories about the past year. Popular topics include love interests, job promotions, jokes, and the future. Speaking about disease, death, and other dark topics is frowned upon during Seollal.
Koreans follow a zodiac similar to the Chinese zodiac. Twelve animals represent the 12 years in sequential order. Buddha is believed to have invited animals to visit, but only 12 came. He honored them by naming the years in the order that they arrived. Koreans believe that specific zodiac animals represent specific resources and qualities. 2019 is the Year of the Pig, the last of the 12 animals in the zodiac. The characteristics assigned to the pig are honesty, simplicity and strength. The pig represents luck, wealth, and fortune.
Sounds like a wonderful prediction for the New Year.