Seollal (Lunar New Year; first day of the lunar calendar) is one of the most celebrated national holidays in Korea. While many observe Sinjeong (Solar New Year; January 1 of the Gregorian/Western calendar), Koreans also celebrate Seollal, which usually lasts for three days (the day of, the day before, and the day after)… More than just a holiday to mark the beginning of a new year, Seollal is truly a special occasion for Korean people. Not only is it a time for paying respect to ancestors, but it is also an opportunity to catch up with family members. During Seollal, Koreans usually perform ancestral rites, play folk games, eat traditional foods, listen to stories and talk well into the night.
Story written by Sydney Kahle
Americans have large New Year’s Eve celebrations on the 31st of December, however here in Korea they have three days to celebrate this holiday. For these celebrations many Koreans will return to their hometowns to spend time with their relatives and honor their elders. However, because we did not have any family to go and visit with, we received several invitations to celebrate with our new Korean friends.
First, we took a day trip to Gyeongju with the Im family from the Joyful Church. We went to a museum to learn more about the Silla dynasty, and we had a very nice breakfast and lunch with them. Their two young daughters spoke very little English, yet we did not hesitate to love on them. It was a day full of joyful laughter, as we played typical Korean games and learned more about the culture.
That evening, we had an invitation to have dinner with a retired professor from Handong Global University and his family. During the meal, we talked about many things. Our Executive Director Brian Schlottmann was able to encourage the family’s newly married daughter and her husband. We could sense this was a God moment, and ended the evening with prayer. It was a wonderful experience to get to know this family.
We attended two group celebrations for the Lunar New Year. The first celebration was at a small community church called Bonggae. This is a church that we had the opportunity to paint a mural on their building. They invited us to their community celebration where we ate red bean Korean Fish pancakes (Pancake batter that is poured into a fish shaped mold and then filled with red bean filling) and traditional Korean food for lunch. Our team was able to play a traditional game called Yut that involves sticks and a game board. This game was a popular way for us to celebrate the new year with our friends.
For our second group celebration we attended an event that was held at the Joyful church where we met many international university students who also did not have a chance to be with their families to celebrate the new year because they were not able to travel back to their homelands. We competed for the first-place champion’ title in a game of Yut, but sadly our team did not win. However, the event was great, and we were able to meet many people from many different backgrounds.
All in all, we had a very busy Lunar New Year celebration and even though we did not have any biological family to celebrate with, we still celebrated abundantly with our new Korean friends who have become like family to us.