Celebrating the Lunar New Year in South Korea
This week, many East Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year, which marks the first day of the lunar calendar. In most years, the holiday falls on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice, which this year is January 31. Many know this holiday as “Chinese New Year” with its dragon dancers, red packets and lanterns, but the holiday also has strong importance and rich traditions in South Korea as well.
In South Korea, the holiday is called Seollal (설날) and is celebrated over a course of three days. The event is one of the most important celebrations of the year for many families who often come together and pay respect to their ancestors. Many Instagrammers in South Korea are sharing the festivities taking place this week.
Traditionally, Seollal celebrations include wearing a formal dress called a hanbok (한복) and performing an act of sebae (세배)—a ceremonial deep bow to the spirits of deceased ancestors or to the eldest members of the household. Many children look forward to this day as they receive a gift of money called sebae don (세뱃돈) after the bowing, which comes enclosed in colorful envelopes. Festive meals are also a big part of Seollal, consisting of a dish called tteokguk (떡국)—a soup with thinly sliced rice cakes and dumplings. The rice cake is a symbol of new beginnings, and eating the rice cake signifies growing a year older with the new year.