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Korean New Year (Hangul설날; RRSeollal; MRSŏllal, also known as: Chinese New Year Chinese New Year [​Hangul원단; Hanja元旦], Wonil [원일; 元日], Sinwon [신원; 新元]) is the first day of the lunar calendar. It is one of the most significant traditional Korean holidays. The celebration lasts three days: the day before Korean New Year day, Korean New Year day itself, and the day after Korean New Year day. "Seollal" generally refers to Eumnyeok Seollal (음력 설날, lit. "lunar new year"), also known as Gujeong (구정; 舊正). "Seollal" may also refer to Yangnyeok Seollal (양력 설날, lit. "solar new year"), also known as Sinjeong (신정; 新正).

Korean New Year
Korea Traditional Game Tuho.jpg
Traditional game tuho being played.
Also called Chinese New Year Lunar New Year (as a collective term including other Asian Lunar New Year festivals, used outside of Asia.)
Observed by Korean people around the world
Type Cultural, Confucian
Significance The first day of the Korean calendar (lunar calendar)
Date Chinese lunar new year
2017 date January 28, Rooster
2018 date February 16, Dog
2019 date February 5, Pig
2020 date January 25, Rat
Frequency annual
Related to Chinese New Year, Japanese New Year, Mongolian New Year, Tibetan New Year, Vietnamese New Year

Korean New Year generally falls on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice, unless there is a very rare intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year. In such a case, the New Year falls on the day of the third new moon after the solstice; the next occurrence of this will be in 2033.



Celebrations of new year in Silla is excerpted in traditional Chinese literary works such as the Book of Sui and the Old Book of Tang.[1] However, the earliest record was in 3rd century, in Records of the Three Kingdoms, Book of Wei, Volume 30 (三國志 魏書 東夷傳).[1] In the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897), all the government officials gathered in the Five Grand Palaces to make New Year's greetings.[2]


Korean New Year is typically a family holiday. The Korean New Year is also known as "Seollal" (설날).[3] The three-day holiday is used by many to return to their hometowns to visit their parents and other relatives, where they perform an ancestral ritual called charye. The three days are the day of, the day before, and the after.[3] In 2016, 36 million South Koreans reportedly would be traveling to visit their families during the Korean New Year.[4] Koreans not only travel within the country, but around the world, as well. Many Koreans travel from overseas to visit their families for this annual holiday. Since it is one of the few times families may be able to get together and catch up on one another's lives, it is considered respectful and important to attend the holiday. Often, the family members first visit the elders, and this includes the grandparents and the parents. It is also considered respectful for people to visit their mothers- and fathers-in-law during the Korean New Year.[5]

Including travel expense, preparation for this holiday is very costly. Gifts are usually given to family members and new clothes are worn during the holiday. Traditional food is prepared for many family members coming to visit for the holiday. Fruits are especially expensive. Due to the increased demand, food prices are inflated during the month of Seollal. As a result, some people have chosen to forgo some traditions because they have become too expensive. These families prepare a modest ancestral rite only with necessary foods for Seollal. The government has started taking certain measures to help stabilize and support ordinary people's livelihood for Seollal holiday period. They have raised the supply of agricultural, fishery, and livestock products. The government used the rice reserves and pork imports to lower inflation. The government is also putting money into small and medium-sized companies to help with cash flow.

Many preparations go into celebrating the Korean New Year. During the first morning, Koreans pay their respect towards their ancestors. Traditional foods are placed on a table as an offering to the ancestors, and a rite begins with deep bows from all family members. This is a sign of respect and a very important practice on the first day of the New Year in Korea. It is also where they pray for the well-being of all the family members.[3] Many Koreans dress up in colorful traditional Korean clothing called hanbok. Hanbok are usually worn for special occasions such as weddings, Korean New Year, child's first birthday, etc.[3] However, with modernization and evolving mores in the culture, more people tend to prefer westernized, modern clothing to the hanbok. After the rite, the members have a big feast.

Additionally, Koreans follow a zodiac similar to the Chinese zodiac. Twelve (12) animals represent the 12 years in sequential order with the rat/mouse representing the first year. Buddha is believed to have invited animals from all over the world to visit, to which only 12 visited. In return, he honored them by naming the years in the order that they arrived.[6] Koreans believe that specific zodiac animals bring specific resources and qualities. For example, the year 2014 was the year of the horse, and it was considered a good year in the money and career aspect of life. Interestingly, it is said that a person born in a specific zodiacal year will carry that zodiac animal's characteristics. As a result, Koreans plan their year and activities around it to have a good, prosperous year. Parents may have even planned the birth year of their child, so the child may have a specific characteristic. It is fair to say that the Korean zodiac is an important part of Korea's culture.[6]

Another custom observed is the lighting of a "moon house" built from burnable firewood and branches. This symbolizes the warding off of bad/evil spirits for the new year. Many also choose to add wishes they want come true in the next year to the moon house.


Korean Tradtional Bow

Sebae (세배, 歲拜, worship elders) is a ritual of filial piety that is traditionally observed on Seollal. Dressed in traditional clothing, children wish their elders (grandparents, parents and aunts and uncles) a happy new year by performing a deep traditional bow (rites with more than one bow involved are usually for the deceased) and the words saehae bok mani badeuseyo (Hangul: 새해 복 많이 받으세요), or "Please receive a lot of good fortune for the New Year". Elders typically reward this gesture by giving children new year's money, or "pocket money" (usually in the form of crisp paper money) in silk bags made with beautiful traditional designs, as well as offering words of wisdom (dŏkdam). Historically, parents gave out rice cakes (ddeok) and fruit to their children.

New Year foodEdit


Tteokguk (soup with sliced rice cakes) is a traditional Korean food that is customarily eaten for the New Year. According to Korean age reckoning, the Korean New Year is similar to a birthday for Koreans, and eating tteokguk is part of the birthday celebration. Once you finish eating your tteokguk, you are one year older.

On Korean New Year day, people prepare a lot of food and spend much of the day with family.


Jeon, sometimes called buchimgae, is a traditional Korean dish especially eaten on the Korean New Year's Day. A savory pancake, one would expect it to be sliced with a knife. However, the jeon is ripped apart with chopsticks in the belief of making it taste better.

Folk gamesEdit

Many traditional games are associated with the Korean New Year. The traditional family board game yutnori remains a popular game, especially during Korean New Year. It is played using a set of specially designed sticks and is considered appropriate for all ages and genders. Men and boys traditionally would also fly rectangle kites called Yeon (연, see yeonnalligi), and also play jegichagi, a game in which a light object is wrapped in paper or cloth, and then kicked in a footbag like manner. Korean women and girls would have traditionally played neolttwigi, a game of jumping on a seesaw (시소), and gongginori, a game played with five little gonggi (originally a little stone, but today many buy manufactured gongi in toy shops>). Top (paengi (팽이) in Korean) spinning is also a traditional game played by children. Recently, a few adults play Go-Stop instead of traditional hwatu.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b [Lunar New Year]. Encyclopedia of Korean culture (in Korean). the Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved January 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ [Lunar New Year]. Doopedia (in Korean). Doosan Corporation. Retrieved January 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Celebrating Seollal in Korea: Glimpse of Local New Year's Customs - Official Korea Tourism Organization". 
  4. ^ "Redirect Page". 
  5. ^ "Daughters-in-law vs. mothers-in-law". 8 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "The Seoul Times".