Korean New Year Superstitions

Korea has a comprehensive set of intriguing beliefs, superstitions, and traditions surrounding the celebration of the new year. Korean New Year traditions superstitions can often be traced back to many Chinese beliefs. This larger nation often invaded, occupied, and influenced the development of Korean culture. That said, many ideas are unique to the country, especially about the celebration of the New Year. 

Korean New Year
Celebrating Seollal in Korea

Celebrating Seollal

The traditional Korean New Year celebration is known as Seollal. It is usually a family holiday, and people often make trips back to their hometown to celebrate. Children in college or school will get time off to visit their family. Their parents will then get time off of work to celebrate with them. Typically, there are three days given off during this period, including the day before, the day of, and the day after the new year. 

 

In the busy Korean culture common to both the north and the south halves of the country, Seollal is often the only time families get together to celebrate. As a result, people typically visit their elders, enjoy delicious meals, give gifts, and catch up with each other. It is often the most expensive holiday in both Korean countries, as travel expenses and gifts can be quite high. But it is considered a necessary time to renew familial bonds and start the year off with a fresh outlook.

Korea new year food

Celebrations Center on Food

Korean New Year superstitions often center around traditional foods that are delicious and symbolically important. For example, Tteokguk is usually eaten at every New Year celebration. This simple soup is paired with rice cakes to create a surprisingly tasty food. After finishing this dish, the person who eats it will have a positive and successful new year. It is also regularly eaten on a person’s birthday. 

 

Jeon is another traditional dish enjoyed during the New Year in Korea. Korean New Year beliefs and superstitions state that eating this pancake provides a person with a stronger dose of luck and goodwill for the new year. It is traditionally eaten with chopsticks and torn into pieces to help improve its flavor and improve the quality of the new year. Various fruits, rice, and pork dishes are also prepared, depending on the area in which they are eaten.

Elder Respect is Also Important

During the new year, Korean people often spend a lot of time talking about their family members and respecting their elders. These actions include spending time with parents, grandparents, and in-laws. However, family members will also discuss beloved ancestors who have passed away and who influenced the family unit in significant ways. 

 

During these celebrations, known as Sebae, the family will discuss the symbolic importance of the year’s animal. This belief is influenced by the traditional Chinese zodiac which states that an animal symbolizes each year. For example, 2017 was the year of the dog and decorations and celebrations were adjusted to reflected that change. Traditional clothing will be worn to honor the new year and elders. 

Korean New Year
Korean Game Yut Nori

Fun Games are Played

The Korean New Year is often celebrated by playing traditional games that reflect different aspects of Korean culture. These games are played in both countries on the peninsula. For example, the board game yutnori is popular. This game uses several sticks to create an engaging game that brings the family closer together.

 

Children, especially boys, fly rectangular kites and play jegichagi, a kicking game with a small paper-wrapped object. Games traditionally played by girls and women include notltwigi, a seesaw game. They also play gonggi, a stone collecting game. Both genders traditionally spin tops as a way of celebrating the changing new year. 

Gift Giving

Like in many Asian cultures, giving gifts is an important activity during the Korean New Year. For about a week before Seollal, people from Korea give various gifts to family members and friends. These gifts are typically quite small, including fresh fruits, gift baskets, and small bundles of cash. Children will receive presents from their parents and elders receive gifts from grown children. 

 

Perhaps the most important ceremony of this type is Charye. It occurs on the first day of Seollal and is a day of peace dedicated to ancestors. Traditional clothing, known as hanbok, are worn during this ritual. Family members will eat various foods, bow to honor their ancestors, pray for their health, and provide them with simple gifts. The idea is that these gifts honor and respect the memories of their forebearers.

New Year Celebrations Korea

Take the Time to Learn More

These Korean New Year superstitions are just a few examples of the engaging beliefs that inspire people in Korea during the new year. To learn more about other beliefs and superstitions, please check out the rest of our site. Many unusual Korean views are worth fully understanding.