설날 (Seollal)—Lunar New Year

One week from today Korea will celebrate Seollal, or Lunar New Year. It’s one of the biggest celebration days in Korea and one of the Korean holidays that our family celebrates. Here are a few ideas of things you can do with your family for Seollal.

Make Rice Cake Soup (떡국; dduk guk). It’s the most important food served for Seollal. You’ll find a recipe here. Eating this soup is considered good luck, and it’s said that you don’t turn a year older until you’ve eaten your dduk guk. (In Korea you turn a year older on Lunar New Year, not on your birthday.)

Learn to say Happy New Year in Korean. 새해 복 많이 받으세요, which is pronounced “saehae bok mani badeuseyo.” This means “I hope you have much good fortune in the New Year.”

Wear new clothes. Traditionally Koreans wear new hanboks on Seollal. These new clothes are called “seolbim.” There are a couple of good children’s books about there about the new clothes. The one for girls has been translated into English. I don’t believe the one for boys has yet been translated.

Perform sebae. This is a special bow done by the children in front of their elders. In return the children receive money. Here’s a how-to.

Fly kites or play yut nori. Both of these activities have traditionally been associated with Seollal. The kites are usually decorated and made by hand. If you can’t find a yut nori game set, you can make your own. Instructions for both can be found in the book Look What We’ve Brought You From Korea by Phyllis Shalant. Check your local library or the interlibrary loan option. And sometimes you can find used copies on Alibris or Amazon pretty cheap. I found ours on Alibris for only $8.

Hang a bok jori. These are bamboo strainers that are hung either next to the front door or next to the kitchen door for luck. It’s believed that the strainers let the bad luck go through keeping only the good luck for your family. Here’s an article about bok jori with a photo what they look like. So far the only one’s I’ve found are on eBay.

Read a couple of good books. The Next New Year is about a little boy who is Chinese-Korean American. The book tells about how this little boy celebrates the new year, as well as how many of his friends from various ethnic backgrounds celebrate. Another good one is Dumpling Soup. This one is about a little girl whose family is Korean-Chinese-Japanese-Hawaiian-Anglo and how they celebrate each year by making a special soup. It’s a soup similar to dduk guk, which some people do add dumplings (mandu) to.

The Korea web site has great information on the holiday. You’ll found it here. Click Asia also has a page with lots of information about the holiday. And here’s another article listing many of the Korean New Year’s customs.

I’m sure there are more ways to celebrate but these are a few to get you started. I’d love to hear any other ideas. Just leave them in the comments.

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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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