[Exploring Korea] Experience Korean culture! What is Lunar New Year?: Korea's biggest event, a celebration of family and traditions


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In Japan, the New Year is celebrated on January 1st and many people spend the New Year with their families, whereas in Korea, it is common for the whole family to gather together on Lunar New Year (February 10th in 2024). Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in Korea, marking the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar. This is a precious time when families gather together and pray for peace and happiness in the year ahead.

Chalie Table

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Traditional customs and rituals

On the morning of Lunar New Year, families hold an ancestor honouring ceremony (차례, Jarye). This ceremony is an important way to strengthen family ties and show respect to ancestors. The ancestral table is laid out with a variety of foods. This can include meat, fish and rice cakes, and although there are regional customs that vary in how the food is arranged, as a general rule, fish dishes are often placed on the east side (fish dong) and meat dishes on the west side (meat seo).
There is no set time for the ritual to begin, but it is common for it to be held in the morning. The ritual takes about 30 minutes, but in recent times it has been simplified and can be completed in about 15 minutes . During the ritual, the oldest man bows first in front of the ritual table, followed by other men, women, and children. It is customary for men to bow twice and women to bow four times.

Pocket money (새뱃돈, Sebetong)

Sebeton is money that adults give to children during the Lunar New Year, and it is meant to bring good fortune and luck in the new year. There are no specific years when Sebeton is not given, but it is common for high school and university students to receive it. Children who receive Sebeton can save the money or use it to buy things they want. It is similar to the Japanese New Year's gift money.


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Special Food: Tteokguk and Others

On Lunar New Year's Day, people eat rice cake soup (tteokguk) to signify growing one year older. The long, white rice cakes in tteokguk symbolize longevity and purity. They also eat various dishes placed on the altar table, such as chijimi and namul. Children who want to grow up quickly may eat several bowls of tteokguk, thinking that one bowl of tteokguk represents one year. This is similar to zoni in Japan.

Family time

Lunar New Year provides an opportunity to take time away from the busyness of everyday life and spend time with family. Through this time, we catch up, laugh together, and make memories. Korean New Year is a three- day holiday that includes not only the day itself, but also the day before and the day after, so it is common to go back to your family home for two days if they live nearby, and for three days if they live far away. These moments emphasize the importance of family in Korean culture.


Modern changes and new trends

As times change, the traditions of Lunar New Year are gradually changing. Many young people celebrate the holiday in a combination of traditional and modern ways, such as cooking traditional dishes and sharing photos on social media , or communicating with their families online. As the rituals require a lot of labor, more and more people are going on family trips during Lunar New Year these days.



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Traditional Play

During the Lunar New Year, people enjoy traditional games such as Yunnori (a traditional Korean board game) and jumping board (널뛰기, noltegi), which are important ways to strengthen family ties and share fun.

Han Fu

Chinese New Year Costume: Hanbok

It is customary to wear the traditional Korean costume, Hanbok, on Lunar New Year. This custom originated from the custom of wearing new clothes (설빔, Seolbim) on the New Year. The beautiful colors and elegant designs of Hanbok represent the traditional beauty of Korea and enhance the atmosphere of this special day. However, because Hanbok is not worn on a daily basis and is inconvenient, in recent years, like the Japanese kimono, most people do not wear Hanbok.



Korean New Year's Day is a special day when families gather together to celebrate the New Year. In Japan, the New Year begins on January 1 , but in Korea, the whole family gathers together on Lunar New Year's Day. At this time, a traditional ceremony called "차례 ( Jarye ) " is held to honor ancestors and deepen family ties. Lunar New Year's Day is an important time for families to spend together, and is one of the few consecutive holidays in Korea.