Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Day in Korea

The celebration of a new year at the start of the lunar calendar has been a tradition in Korea for thousands of years. A new custom has also emerged in Korea -- the celebration of a new year at the start of the solar calendar, which falls on January 1st. 

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This year the start of the lunar calendar doesn't begin until February 10th but that doesn't mean that people across Korea weren't toasting to a new year with their friends and family January 1st! The lunar New Year is a three-day event that involves gathering with neighbors and friends, as well as family. 

However, New Year's Day is a more family-oriented event. People across the country travel back to their hometowns to be with their relatives and acknowledge their ancestors. A ceremonial ritual, called seh bae, is one of the most important aspects of this day. Seh bae involves a deep bow to the floor and making food and drink offerings to the spirits of their ancestors, or charae. To wish each other a safe, healthy, and happy New Year money and gifts are exchanged between family members, especially to the children. 

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Family time is greatly stressed during this holiday, so between meals, families gather to play board games, outdoor games (such as kite-flying), participate in karaoke, or just relax. Traditional meals are also included on this day. It is customary for families to prepare and eat a meal consisting of a soup of duk gook, or thinly sliced rice cakes and different variations of dumplings. White rice cakes are believed to represent a new beginning and fresh start for the New Year. 

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