Seollal is the most important and sought for holiday in Korea. It is also referred to as the Lunar New Year. It is a very old tradition and an interesting fact remains that there is no record of when the tradition of Seollal actually originated. As per the Korean Calander Seollal is to fall on the 1st of January which coincides with the 31st of January as per the western calendar.
The importance of Seollal can be seen wide spread throught major Korean cities. People travel back to towns and villages to be with the family to bring in the new year with joy and happiness. Customary food is prepared and there is a lot of shopping for gifts and food items to be prepared. The most interesting fact is the occurrence of this very sought of New Year is not a frequent happening. It is a very rare occurrence as this New Year hysterically sets in only based on the position of the moon. The occurrence of the Korean Lunar New Year (Seollal) is based on the second full moon after the winter solstice. No doubt with the event been so rare and culturally sought for; the Koreans try to make the most out of it.
As myth is to have it, this New Year finds mention in some very old Chinese Literatures. The Book of Sui and the Book of Tang sheds light on the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1897). The book explained at the time of Seollal, when government officials used to gather in five palaces to mark and celebrate the onset of the Lunar Year.
Sebae is a traditional activity observed by the Koreans. Children greet their elders by wishing them for the New Year and seek their blessings. In return the elders bless the children gracefully and offer them gifts, money and food items in return. There is also a bowing ceremony specially associated at this time of the year. Children bow deeply to respect their elders and in return seek their blessings. This day also sees the Koreans honoring their ancestors, the family pays their respect and pray for their elders who have departed. The customs also involve offering the departed with the traditionally cooked food.
- JESA (제사)
Jesa is one of Korean traditions. On Seollal, generally a family hold a memorial ceremony for ancestors. They prepared about 21 kinds of special food for the Jesa, and burn incense on the table. Next, they also make a deep bow to the ancestors for praying the family’s prosperity and happiness.
FOODS AND DRINKS
Like a New Year celebrated across the world, the Korean New Year also includes some mouth watering delicious recipes.
- TTEOKGUK (떡국)
This is somewhat like a stew and contains soup with sliced cakes of rice. Tteokguk is often cooked on occasions like birthdays and the lunar new year. The Koreans associate themselves with increasing one year in age after consuming this with the New Year Celebrations ringing.
- SOJU (소주)
Soju is a form of traditional alcohol that is specially made especially for the Seollar. This is only consumed by the elders and the belief associated with this alcohol consumption is; it drives away disease and negativity.
Where there is a good family, friends, alcohol and good food how can someone miss out on the games. Children resort to flying kites and traditional games like yunnori (윷놀이: board game), jegichagi (제기차기), neolttwigi (널뛰기: a game of jumping on a see-saw) are some of the sports that are played during the New Year celebrations.
WHERE COULD I EXPIERIENCE THESE KINDS OF TRADITIONS IN KOREA?
On Seollal, Seoul is going to be very quiet. If you want to experience those Seollal traditions in Korea, I recommend that you go to these three places hosting several traditional performances, rituals and games.
1. GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE (경복궁)
2. NAMSANGOL HANOK VILLAGE (남산골 한옥 마을)
3. GWANGHWAMUN SQUARE (광화문 광장)
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