Tradition, traffic mark Lunar New Year in South Korea
January 27, 2006
SEOUL — Sunday will mark the South Korean holiday Seollal — the Lunar New Year and the beginning of the Year of the Dog.
Throughout the three-day holiday, most Korean businesses and shops will be closed, families will prepare traditional foods and children can expect a few extra won after bowing to their elders.
The holiday this year falls on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It is one of the biggest occasions in South Korea, and many people travel to their family villages to celebrate.
That means that come Saturday, 3 million cars will be on Korean roads, according to the Korea Highway Corporation. A driving trip from Seoul to Busan — about 275 miles — will take about nine hours, according to the corporation.
The festivities start on Saturday, when women in the family begin preparing the chare, ceremonial foods to offer ancestors.
The chare includes fruits, fish, fried meats and dumplings. Instead of rice, families offer ancestors rice cakes, or tteok.
The offering ceremony happens on Sunday, when families dress in traditional Korean clothing. It starts with the sebe — the first greeting to family elders for the new year. After bowing, children in the family often are given the equivalent of a few dollars.
Afterward, a feast begins. At the center of the fest is tteokguk, rice-cake soup. The rice cakes are like pasta, though slightly chewier, and the soup usually includes seaweed, egg, pork-stuffed dumplings and beef broth. After eating tteokguk, it is truly considered the new year.
When the feast is over, many families visit their ancestors’ burial sites.
Other traditional Seollal customs include hanging bokjori, small woven sieves, for good luck. Games include yutnori (a board game played by tossing sticks), neolttwigi (the traditional Korean seesaw), jegichagi (a Korean version of hacky sack) and kite flying.