Wandering Seoul Column:
Prepare to immerse yourself into the historically beautiful, technologically advanced and remarkable culture of South Korea. CUB Magazine’s column ‘Wandering Seoul’, written by Ruby Punt, aims to dispense with overusing itineraries and reflect the extraordinary personal experience South Korea has to offer, whilst also challenging many western misconceptions about South Korea. All that’s left to say is 읽어 주셔서 감사합니다 .
Seollal in Seoul
January 25th Marked the first day of the Korean year according to the Lunar calendar. Otherwise known as Seollal, the Korean holiday is typically celebrated over the course of three days. According to many of my South Korean friends, Seollal is the biggest and most widely celebrated event in Korea.
Ancestral Rites: Charye
In the morning a Korean family will gather for an ancestral rite to convey their gratitude to their ancestors. The rite is a type of memorial service that expresses the family’s desire for the ancestor’s good health and happiness. The rite begins with a deep bow, followed by prayers. Once they have finished with their prayers, they will then proceed to make offerings of various food and drink, which is shared among the family. It is said that this will pass “the hopes and virtues of the ancestors to those who partake”. The ceremony should be repeated for each generation that is to be greeted. For example, if the family spans two generations then you must perform the ceremony twice.
New Year Money: Sebaetdon
Later in the day the children will perform a New Year ritual known as Saebae, in which they bow to their elders and wish them a happy new year. In exchange, the elders will offer their blessings to the children, with a small pouch filled with money called a Sebaetdon. The Saebae ritual differs depending on your gender, with the most noticeable difference being which hand is placed on top. The Saebae ritual is also performed at weddings, funerals and other holidays, like ThanksGiving (known as Chuseok).
Traditional clothing for Seollal: Seolbim
Customarily, Koreans will wear a traditional outfit, referred to as Hanbok, for Seollal. Hanbok are considered ritual dressings and are commonly worn only for traditional holidays (or for fun!). The outfit worn during Seollal is known as Seolbim, literally meaning “the attire for Lunar New Year’s Day”.
Folk Games: Minsog Geim
Many families choose to spend the holiday playing folk games together, to pass the time. For instance, the popular strategy game Yut-nori is a popular choice, which is believed to date back to the Three Kingdoms (57 BCE – 668 EC). The game involves throwing four sticks into the air and advancing depending on how they land. For a better description, watch the video!
Traditionally, during Seollal, South Koreans will eat a rice cake soup known as tteokguk, as it is believed to represent health and long life. The dish consists of beef, vegetables, eggs, and rice cakes. Those a tad hungrier – like me – might eat a traditional dumpling soup, called manduguk, with a serving of rice or bap.
Despite all these traditions, it is very common for families to go on holiday together. As with most festivities, the main aspect of this holiday is to spend time with your family and feel thankful for the bonds you share.
CUB’s Ruby Punt is a third year comparative literature student, currently embedded in Seoul, South Korea. She is exceedingly sporty: regularly rock climbing, hiking and practicing pole fitness (with a spot of skiing on the side). She enjoys reading fiction and, despite her athletic disposition, has an ‘unhealthy’ Netflix addiction.