Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Seollal: A New Year

Nearly every American is familiar with Chinese New Year.  However, the celebration is not unique to China.  Lunar New Year, or Seollal in Korean, is widely celebrated here as well.   February 3, 2011 marks the beginning of Shinmyeon, The Year of the Rabbit.

In celebration of Seollal, Koreans travel to their family homes where they pay respect to their ancestors.  Many people wear traditional Korean hanboks.  Nearly every family enjoys tteokguk, a soup made of beef broth and thinly sliced tteok (similar to pasta).  Younger generations bow to their elders after the meal.  In return, older generations offer advice, blessings, and money.  Elaborate fruit baskets and other gifts are also exchanged between family and friends.  For Koreans who strictly follow the Lunar Calendar, this is the day they will turn one year older. 

Korean children look forward to New Year's Day the same way kids in the US anticipate Christmas because of the gifts they'll receive.  Another similarity to Christmas is that nearly all businesses close for a day or two.  Generally everyone stays home with their family.
tteokguk (photo source)
Gift Sets
Sweet glutinous rice cake treats from co-workers
Delicious pastries from a student

This year Seollal falls in the middle of the week, giving us five days off!  In an attempt to avoid the massive crowds of travelers, Ryan and I plan to stick around Busan to do some shopping for our upcoming trip (more on that soon) and see a movie or two.  Or maybe we’ll just stay in our pajamas all week.

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