A day of celebration for Koreans around the world, it is known as Korean Day and is celebrated on the first day of the Korean Lunar calendar. It typically lasts three days, including the day before and after. The day is celebrated with family, and everyone gathers at the home of the oldest male relative. This is where respects are paid to ancestors and elders alike.

What Does Seollal Involve?

For most, it is a time to get together with family, remember ancestors, and bond over food and games. It also involves dressing in traditional clothing called Hanbok, a traditional Korean dress featuring patterns. There is a series of bowing, a process named sebae. This is a process because it starts with the eldest and continues until the youngest, with a deep bow reserved for the elders.

But there are ways of observing Seollal.

How To Observe Seollal

There are different rituals involved in celebrating Seollal. The first tends to be Charye. This is where the female relatives prepare food, and male relatives serve it to the ancestors. Everyone participates in the final step known as eumbok. This stage involves eating the food that has been prepared and receiving the blessing of the ancestors for the year to follow.

The food will be different depending on which region the family is from, but typical dishes will include rice, meat, seafood, soup, vegetables, fruit, and even liquor. One dish that is popular is rice cake soup, otherwise known as tteokguk. It is not a dish reserved only for Seollal, but it holds significance in that eating it marks a year on their Lunar calendar birthday, so children are keen to take part. Food preparation is an important part of observing Seollal and is often prepared days in advance.

Then, there are games. These usually involve cards, and small amounts of money for placing wagers. Typical games include Yut Nori and GoStop. If you have plenty of players, you will usually be split into teams, especially for Yut. This means every member of the team gets to throw the four sticks into the air for their turn (this is an integral part of this game and adds to the fun).

Does Everything Close On Seollal?

On the day of Seollal, you can expect most shops and restaurants in Korea to close. However, many of the large museums, palaces, and amusement parks remain open. Still, when visiting Korea during this time, it is always a good idea to do a little research in advance.

The amusement parks remaining open is one of the more curious traditions as it is a fun way for families to observe Seollal and have some fun together. Whatever the choice of activity, embarking on any of the above traditions is a great way of seeing in the new Korean lunar year, and observing Seollal is a cherished occasion for millions.

So, check the date every year and see if you can get involved in some of the wonderful and vibrant traditions of Seollal.

Where is it celebrated?
South Korea (National holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
Next year (2025)
Last year (2023)