Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year

Considering it has the world's largest population, it is not surprising China is most known for its Chinese New Year, with it lavish celebrations and fireworks. However it is really the Lunar New Year which is celebrated by many Vietnamese, Koreans or any culture following the moon instead of the Roman calander.

In Korea, "sol-nal" is a time to sweep away the misfortunes of the previous year and look forward to new endeavors.

On New Year's Eve, people place straw shovels, sieves or rakes on their doors and walls to protect their families from any evil spirits arriving with the new year. The New Year's day ceremonies begin in the morning with the donning of formal dress (hanbok) by family members. The first component of the day's activities is the rite of charye, or the honoring of the past four generations of ancestors. Food and drink (the exact form of which varies according to regional and family traditions) are offered on a ritual table (charye sang).

It is traditional in Korea to thoroughly clean your house. Continuing the theme of renewal, only new clothes are worn on New Year's Day.

Family members wish each other prosperity and good fortune. Then they exchange gifts. Children receive lucky money, candy and fruit from the elders.

Children kneel and bow to their ancestors and elders.
After this act of reverence is completed, it is time to pay one's respects to the living elders of the family (saebae. This takes the form of younger family members bowing deeply to the elders, first to the grandparents, then the parents, then the uncles and aunts. The bow is accompanied by the New Year's greeting "Sae-hae boke mahn-he pah-du-sae-oh." Usually, the elders give something to the people offering saebae: food, money, drink or something similar. In the old days, these rituals would have been performed door to door, but in today's Korea, family is quite spread out, so Sol-nal offers a family a good excuse to travel back home.

Michelle tells me this is the worst time to travel. Since the majority of younger people live in Seoul and travel to country. A trip that normally may take 3 hours will take 10 hours.

Finally, it is time to sit down to the traditional breakfast, a meal which almost always includes ttok-guk. Ttok-guk is a thick beef broth with thinly sliced rice cakes that have been topped with green onions and other colorful garnishes. Some people eat ttok-guk mandu guk instead, which is ttok-guk with mandu dumplings. Tradition dictates that this food must be eaten in order to turn one year older. This is very important as Korean age is calculated on the New Year. Everyone becomes one year older on New Year's Day.

No comments: