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Celebrating Korea’s New Year

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

The great philosopher and teacher, Confucius said that "All men are brothers". Our friends came from Ethiopia, Romania, Mongolia, Bulgaria, Turkmenistan, Montenegro, etc. We all came from different parts of the world. We all have different cultures, languages, ways of life, mindset, etc. However, as brothers and sisters, on January 23rd, 2020, we gathered together at the Embassy of International Students​, Korea, to celebrate Seollal, which is "Korean New Year".

Korea is one of the few countries with their own traditional calendar. Korea’s calendar is sometimes referred to as the ​Dangun ​calendar. This calendar is based on both the “Moon Phase” and the time of the “Solar Year”. As a result, it is also called a lunisolar calendar. Accordingly, Korean celebrate the new year in the lunar calendar on January 1 which is January 25 in the ​G​regorian​ calendar​. Korean called their new year ​Seollal (설날).

Seollal is one of the biggest holidays in Korea. During the Seollal, Korean people usually gathered together and perform traditional activities and ancestral rituals.​ Family members visit their grandparents and their parents or other elder members of the family. It is done as a way of showing respect. Though changing, Korean society is deeply influenced by​ Confucius​’s teachings. One of the central teachings of Confucianism is ​filial piety​ which literally means ‘love towards parents’.

During Seollal, the first thing Koreans do is wearing ​hanbok (한복) which is Korean traditional cloth. Similarly, what we did first was renting hanbok. We went to a place called Gwangjang Market (광장시장) and rented these traditional clothes.

Our program started just a while after noon has passed with our lovely hosts greeting us dressed in those beautiful hanbok. During Seollal in Korea traditional dish to eat is tteokguk (떡국). Tteokguk (떡국) is a rice-cake soup prepared with slices of rice cake, beef, eggs, etc. We were kindly given the opportunity to eat delicious, homemade Tteokguk by lovely lady Kim HyeonSuk. Our feast also included pizza, fruits, spaghetti, even a delicious cake.

During Seollal public and private offices, stores, restaurants, are closed most probably for about three days. Thus, Korean do have time to travel, visit parents, or play traditional games. The most popular traditional games are Yonnori (윷놀이) and Go stop (고스톱). Some researchers traced the history of Yonnori back to the period of the Three Kingdoms (57BC - 668 CE). They stated that people played Yonnori during the period of the three kingdoms; however, still, there was no sufficient data on when, where and how it began.

Yonnori is playing yut, or a game of yut. The game is explained traditionally as some villagers bet to raise five different livestock: pigs, dogs, sheep, cows, and horses, despite the fact that each of the villagers would raise only one type. The number of points of the game is from 1 to 5.

The other game we played was "go stop (고스톱)". Go stop is a card game and it is to get points by collecting sets of matching cards that is why Korean called the game matgo (맞고) which literally means "match". Originally, the game was considered as gambling because people play the game to win money. However, nowadays the game is playing only for fun.

We were also very honored to receive gifts from our representative guest from Hana Tour, and once again thank you so much for making us feel welcomed and allowing us to have great time this traditional holiday.

Finally, I want to conclude my article with one quote from the great leader, Mahatma Gandhi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Though we are far from our families, friends back home,we can have a family, friends here in Korea and our happiness depends on our thoughts, expression, and action. If you think so, join us next time!

새해 복 많이 받으십시오~

Writen by: Dereje Teshome,

Edited by: Mirjana Adzic

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