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Insider's guide
Seolnal, the Korean New Year's Day

N
ext to Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), Seolnal is the biggest holiday celebrated in Korea. It falls on Jan. 1st of the lunar calender. Seolnal is one of the three great holidays in Korea along with Chuseok (April 15th of the lunar calender) and Dano (May 5th of the lunar calender).

The meaning of 'Seol' is to calm down and compose oneself. Its meaning originated from the Korean words, 'saridah' and 'sahmgahdah' which mean 'to be careful'. Since days of old, Koreans have considered Seolnal not just a pleasant day, but also as a day to take very careful first steps into the New Year. Because of this belief, many prayer ceremonies for peace take place and are practiced in many families.

Seolnal is a very busy day. People get up early in the morning and dress in 'Seolbim,' the traditional clothes worn for Seolnal and practice a ceremony called 'Charye,' which involves bowing in honor and remembrance of one's ancestors. After 'Charye' is finished, there is a further ceremony called 'Sebae' is perfomed. This involves visiting ones elders and bowing to them. In return, the elders bestow upon their younger vistors 'Deokdam,' a wish for happiness and success toward others. As they bow to their elders, they say, 'I wish you good luck for the new year.' Today, elders often give money to the young people who bow to them. When 'Sebae' is finished, the relatives gather around the table and dine together. The traditional food eaten on Seolnal is 'Ddeokguk,' a rice soup. Koreans often say they only add another year to their age after they have eaten their Ddeokguk.

Koreans believe that if they hear a lot of good wishes on Seolnal, then the New Year will be just like the wishes received. It is also believed that if they eat a lot of food on Seolnal they will not be hungry in the New Year.

Besides the ceremonies, there are certain traditional games for Seolnal such as 'Yutnori' and 'Yeonnalligi.' Yutnori is enjoyed by almost everyone. This game is played by throwing four sticks on the ground and moving according to whether sticks are upside down or the direction they lay. Every Korean knows this game havong played it when they were children. Seolnal is an important holiday that has been celebrated in Korea for centuries. The Korean government designates the days around Seolnal as holidays. This year, Seonal will fall from Jan. 23rd to Jan. 25th.



(Sourced from WHAT'S ON SEOUL)







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