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Korean New Year

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Korean Lunar New Year (traditions, food, dress, facts,Is the Korean new year the same as Chinese?Korean new year bowing ceremony )is the first day of the lunar calendar and is celebrated during Seollal or Korean Lunar New Year. Korean Lunar New Year is a traditional Korean holiday. 

Korean Lunar New Year (traditions, food, dress, facts,Is the Korean new year the same as Chinese?Korean new year bowing ceremony )
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Korean Lunar New Year (traditions, food, dress, facts,Is the Korean new year the same as Chinese?Korean new year bowing ceremony )

Three days are typically spent celebrating the Korean New Year: the day before, the day of, and the day after. Many people travel back to their hometowns during these days to perform ancestral rites, eat delicious food, wear traditional Korean clothing called hanbok, and play folk games to feel nostalgic.

Every year, many Koreans travel to their families from overseas for this holiday. As it is one of the few occasions when families get together to catch up on one another’s lives, it is considered important and respectful to attend the holiday. In most cases, it’s the family members who visit the elders first, including the grandparents and parents. During the Korean New Year, people are also expected to visit their mothers and fathers-in-law.  


New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1st in many Western countries. Nonetheless, some Korean holidays are based on the Lunar Calendar, and the New Year takes place a bit later than the Gregorian calendar-usually in early to mid-February.

There are many activities that take place during the Korean Lunar New Year, from house cleaning to family gatherings and ancestral rites to special meals. There are some aspects of life in South Korea that are the same regardless of village or family.

As an example, after cleaning the house, the jesa table is prepared and the family begins gathering the traditional foods for the ancestral rite.

To complete the ceremony, the entire family gathers on New Year’s Day. During the ceremony, they light incense, offer drinks, and bow to their ancestors. Family members pray for good health, prosperity, and good luck during this time.

In addition to showing respect to their ancestors, younger members of the family may also show respect to their elders.

In Korea, family members of all ages gather together to play games during the Lunar New Year. Throughout the Seollal celebration, you can see people playing popular traditional games such as yunnori, yutnori, yeon nalligi, and jegi chagi.

In addition to wearing traditional clothing for New Year celebrations, people may also wear hanboks. Also known as New Year’s money, sebaetdon is given to children.

Your friends and neighbors can come over for a potluck if your family stayed in Korea. There are a lot of locals who enjoy learning about Korean customs and would be happy to celebrate the New Year with you.

During this auspicious occasion, ‘charye’ is one of the most important rituals performed. During Charye, female relatives prepare food for ancestors and male relatives serve it to them. Afterward, the family gathers for a ceremony called ‘eumbok’, during which they eat food blessed by the ancestors, allowing them to start the new year with good fortune and blessings. 

There are different kinds of food prepared for charye ceremonies according to region, but rice, soup, meat, seafood, liquor, fruit, and vegetables are the most common. A very common dish is ‘ddeokguk’ or rice cake soup, which has special significance on Seollal even though it is eaten all year round. Tteokguk symbolizes a fresh start in South Korea, a clean mind and body. It is made with clear broth and white rice cakes.

Another important ritual is known as ‘sebae’. Kneeling on the ground and bowing deeply so your hands are also on the ground is known as a kneeling prayer. The younger generation must bow deeply to their elders and wish them a happy new year. This deep bow symbolizes respect. To perform the ceremony, one must wear a hanbok. The elders give the children ‘sebaetdon’ or New Year’s money as a gift after sebae. South Koreans treasure the gift because it comes in a beautiful and colorful pouch. 

In Korea, there are many traditional games associated with the New Year. Especially during the Korean New Year, the traditional family board game ‘Yutnori’ remains a favorite. The game involves a set of specially designed sticks and is suitable for players of all ages and genders. Players throw four sticks and move their game markers around the board based on the number of sticks facing up. The first team around the board with all four markers wins. Each team has four markers.


Following the ceremony, family members gather for a meal and to spend time together. The following are some of the most popular foods served during the Korean Lunar New Year:

  • Soup made from rice cake also called tteokguk or ddeokguk
  • And mandu (dumplings)
  • Jeon, a Japanese pancake-like dish
  • Braised beef ribs Galbi jjim
  • Japchae, stir-fried sweet potatoes noodles

Tteokguk used to be eaten only during the New Year since it was believed that eating it would age you a year.

Although you can now purchase these rice cakes throughout the year, they are most commonly associated with Seollal.


Many Korean families would buy new clothes for the Lunar New Year as part of their preparations.

Hanbok, a two-piece outfit made of embroidered cotton or silk worn by men and women, has been an important part of the new year’s wardrobe for centuries.

During the Joseon Dynasty, family members would get together in hanbok and bow to each other in a traditional manner, wishing each other good health and fortune, says costume historian Minjee Kim. Hanbok is a style of dress modeled after the clothing worn by Korean women in the 17th- and 18th centuries.

Lunar New Year is a tradition that is waning.

The hanbok dress remains popular during the wedding season, but a bride may only buy one hanbok dress during her lifetime. Korea’s young couples don’t have as many children today, so when they get together for traditional holidays, the gatherings are small. They don’t wear hanbok to keep their traditions strictly.”


The Korean New Year is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar. 

With great spirits, Koreans celebrate Seollal, Korean New Year. The spirit of the day is celebrated by family members and relatives participating in their different traditions. 

To commemorate this occasion, the government of South Korea declares a public holiday. Since the lunar calendar changes every year, the holiday may vary. For the first time ever, in 2020, there were consecutive public holidays between 24 and 27 January. During this consecutive public holiday period, people return to their hometowns to celebrate. 

You need to learn New Year’s Greetings if you are a resident of South Korea or a foreigner but want to celebrate Seollal. Every year, people around the world ring in the New Year by saying, “Happy New Year.” South Koreans also greet everyone by saying, “May the New Year bring you a lot of luck or blessings”.  

This event brings many gifts to everyone, which is its most appealing aspect. While older people give gifts to younger people, kids exchange gifts with their friends. The last week of Seollal is usually when people exchange gifts. Gifts are bought for family, friends, and relatives during the South Korean holiday of Chuseok.  

Hiding your shoes is the very first and most significant ritual that people perform according to a common Korean belief, ghosts appear in the world before Seollal eve. They come into this world, try on different shoes, and then take away the ones that fit perfectly. People who lose their shoes because ghosts take them away will suffer bad luck for the rest of the year.  A night before Seollal eve, people hide their shoes.

Is the Korean new year the same as Chinese?

Seollal, or the Korean Lunar New Year, is the Korean counterpart of the Chinese New Year. Lunar New Year is celebrated at the same time as Chinese New Year (except every few years when they fall one day apart) and is dependent on the lunar calendar.

Japan and Korea also use the lunisolar Chinese calendar. Due to the lunar-solar calendar, the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, falls on a different date each year when compared with the consistent date of January 1.

Korean new year bowing ceremony

Sebae-New Year’s bow is a ritual the young members of every family perform after eating the food. In addition to presenting gifts to their elders, they also perform this ritual. Furthermore, elders give Sebaedon money – New Year’s money – in return for prayers and blessings.  

As they enter the new year, we hope all Koreans are enjoying the rituals, food, music, and games associated with this auspicious time of year! 

Read also: Japanese New Year; Assyrian New Year; Russian New Year; Thai New Year

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