For Koreans, Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year. For Lunar New Year, we take three days off to see family and relatives. The holiday begins a day before Seollal(설날 New Year’s Day) and ends a day after New Year’s Day. A day before New Year’s Day, we go to our oldest uncle’s house(father side) where usually is held a ceremonial event. On this day, we make tons of food for the ceremony like Namool(vegetable side dishes), Mandoo(dumplings), Dduckguk(rice cake soup) and many more. All of this food is served on a big table in early morning of New Year’s Day for a traditional ceremony.
This ceremony is for our ancestors. In early morning on New Year’s Day, we write our ancestors names on a piece of paper and put it on the table as well as the food. And we bow to our ancestors to appreciate what they did for us. After the ceremony, we can have the delicious food for breakfast!!!!!!
Dduckguk is the most important food on New Year’s Day. Dduck(떡) is rice paste and guk(국) is soup. The rice paste for Dduckguk originally looks like a long tube, and we call it Gah-rae Dduck(가래떡). We slice 가래떡 into thin pieces to make the soup. Because 가래떡 is long and white, Dduckguk(떡국) represents longevity and pureness. Thus, we say that we get one year older after eating one bowl of Dduckguk for breakfast on New Year’s Day. (I wanted to stop eating Dduckguk after I turned 20. Haha!)
After the big breakfast, children give their parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents New Year’s bow(Sebe세배). When we give older generation Sebe, we say 새해 복 많이 받으세요! (Hope you have a lot of luck on new year). And older generation give them hopeful wishes and pretty silk pockets (Bok Joomoney 복주머니). As you can guess, there is money inside of the Bok Joomoney. We call this money as Sebetdon(세뱃돈). When I was a kid, I gave all of this money to my mom because my mom said that she will keep the money for my future. I haven’t seen that money since then, but I guess it is already in my stomach as food. 🙂
In the afternoon, we play Yootnori(윷놀이) which is a traditional game with four wooden sticks. It is very simple, and all of the family can play together, so I really liked it when I was a kid. For lunch, we put all the vegetable side dishes in a big bowl together with Gochujang(고추장), make Bibimbop(비빔밥). I really miss my aunts Bibimbop!!! There are always some special programs on TV for New Year’s Day like Ssirum(씨름, Korean wrestling) or new movies. We only had one TV at our uncle’s house, and we didn’t have the Internet, so I REALLY didn’t like Ssirum(씨름) because that was my dad’s and uncles’ favorite TV program. 🙂
After lunch, we usually go to my mom’s side of family. Very fortunately, my parents’ families live close enough, we could do this in one day. And on New Year’s Day, Seoul became a ghost city because a lot of people go to their hometown a day before. We do the same thing with my mom’s side of family, but my mom’s side of family loves singing, so we always have singing contest after dinner.
A day after New Year’s Day, my family usually took a hike on a mountain near my house, or I went shopping with my siblings and friends while everyone else rush back to their house from their hometown. The highway has huge traffic, so my family usually didn’t drive anywhere else a day after New Year’s Day. From Busan to Seoul, it usually takes 4 or 5 hours on a car, but on this day, it sometimes takes 15 hours!!!!
I don’t live in Korea anymore, so I really miss these memories. I am a terrible cook, but this year I made Dduckguk and egg battered fish for myself. I hope we all healthy and happy, Happy New Year to everyone!