Korean New Year

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"Seol" redirects here. For other uses, see Seol (Korean surname).
For other traditions of celebrating lunar new year, see Lunar New Year (disambiguation).
Korean New Year
Korea Traditional Game Tuho.jpg
Traditional game tuho being played.
Also called Lunar New Year
Observed by Korean people around the world
Type Cultural, Buddhist, Confucian
Significance The first day of the Korean calendar (lunar calendar)
2014 date January 31
2015 date February 19
2016 date February 8
2017 date January 28
Frequency annual
Related to Chinese New Year, Japanese New Year, Mongolian New Year, Tibetan New Year, Vietnamese New Year

Korean New Year (Hangul설날; RRSeolnal/Seollal; MRSŏllal, also known as: Sesu (세수; 歲首), Wondan (원단; 元旦), Wonil (원일; 元日), Sinwon (신원; 新元)) is the first day of the Korean 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. "Seolnal" generally refers to Eumnyeok Seolnal (음력 설날, lunar new year), also known as Gujeong (Hangul구정; hanja舊正). "Seolnal" may also refer to Yangnyeok Seolnal (양력 설날, solar new year), also known as Sinjeong (Hangul신정; hanja新正).

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.

Korean New Year is generally the same day as Chinese New Year except when new moon occurs between 15:00 UTC (Korean midnight) and 16:00 UTC (Chinese midnight). In such case (on average once every 24 years), new moon happens on the "next day" in Korea compared to China, and Korean New Year will be one day after Chinese New Year.


Records of Koreans celebrating Lunar New Year can be traced back to traditional Chinese literatures such as the Book of Sui and the Old Book of Tang, which contains excerpts about celebrations of new year in Silla.[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 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. Many Koreans dress up in colorful traditional Korean clothing called hanbok. But nowadays, small families tend to become less formal and wear other formal clothing instead of hanbok.

Seollal, Lunar New Year, and Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving, are the two major holidays in which South Koreans gather as families to celebrate. Seollal is a very important holiday for Koreans. It is a time to respect ancestors and also an opportunity to catch up with distant family members who travel across the world to spend this three day holiday with their family. Tens of millions of people travel either by car, bus, train or plane to their hometowns celebrate the Lunar New Year with their families. There is a mad rush to book buses, trains, or plane tickets before they all sell out. Meanwhile, traveling by car during the holiday can take over two to four times the normal travel time due to heavy traffic.

Including travel expense, preparation for this holiday is very costly. The holiday period usually witnesses a hike in overall consumer prices due to increasing demand. 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. Food prices are inflated during the month of Seollal. Many families have to save money for a long period of time so they are able to purchase food required for the traditional meals. Others have chosen to forgo some traditions because they have become too expensive. These families will 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.

Another custom observed is the lighting of a "moon house" built out of 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.


Sebeh is a traditionally observed activity on Seolnal, and is filial piety oriented. Children wish their elders (grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents) a happy new year by performing one 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) which translates to "Please receive a lot of luck in the New Year". Parents typically reward this gesture by giving their children new year's money, or "pocket money," (usually in the form of crisp paper money) in luck bags made with beautiful silk design and offering words of wisdom, "deokdam," Historically, parents gave out rice cakes (ddeok) and fruit to their children instead. Before and during the bowing ceremony, children wear hanboks as a respectful way to appreciate ancestors and elders.

New Year food[edit]


See also: Tteokguk

The 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.


See also: Jeon (food)

"Jeon," or sometimes called "Buchimgae," is a traditional Korean dish especially eaten on the Korean New Year's Day. As a type of a 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 games[edit]

Many traditional games are associated with the Korean New Year. The traditional family board game yunnori is still a popular game nowadays, especially during Korean New Year. It is played using different types of specially designed sticks. Traditionally men and boys would fly rectangle kites called Yeon (연, see yeonnalligi), and 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, game played with five little gonggi (originally a little stone, but today many buy manufactured gongi in shops) while children spinning top paengi (팽이).[further explanation needed]


  1. ^ [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. 

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