Goodbye 2023 and hello to 2024! 2023 was quite eventful for me, I started Koreanling and I’m really so happy and thankful to see how much it has grown in under a year; thank you all for your support! I hope 2023 has been a good year for you and that 2024 can be even better.
In South Korea the focus for the Lunar New Year is family. With everyone gathering together, paying respects to the elders and ancestors, and of course eating good food! For 2024 the Lunar New Year is Feb. 10 but people gather for the day before and after as well to make it a 3 day celebration.
How does Korea celebrate New Years?
Korean New Years; Aka 설날 is Koreas Lunar New Year celebration. The Lunar New Year follows the Lunar calendar and thus the date changes each year.
세배 is a ritual to wish well for elders; bowing deeply (traditionally in hanbok) to ones parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. saying the phrase “새해 복 많이 받으세요” (Please receive a lot of good luck in the New Year). Depending on the family they might wear a traditional hanbok or modern hanbok which are less complicated.
In return to the younger generations bowing, the elders will give New Years money called 세뱃돈. Korean 세뱃돈 is usually in a white envelope or silk bag with a traditional design.
차례 is held to honor ancestors. Food is set out in front of the family’s ancestral tablets on a table which everyone deeply bows to. This is becoming less celebrated though, depending on a persons religion or simply just dropping the tradition. One thing is that it’s not only for on New Years, 차례 can also be performed during Chuseok.
Korean New Year Dishes
떡국 (sliced rice cake soup) is the biggest holiday food for 설날. The soup commonly has beef broth, egg, green onion and meat paired with the rice cakes. Some variations have dumplings or 만두 as well. The 떡 is cut flat (instead of the tube-like shape you would see in 떡볶이) to resemble 엽전 coins; while the white color means purity.
잡채 (stir-fried glass noodle dish) as pictured above, is often served on holidays and the Lunar New Year is no different. 잡채 typically has beef and vegetables such as carrot, mushrooms, onion, and spinach.
전 (savory pancakes) is also typically served. These pancakes can be filled with lots of various foods like meat, vegetables, seafood, kimchi, etc.
Some families have a tradition to make dumplings or 만두 all together as well. Either way the table is full with lots of various tasty dishes and side-dishes for the whole family!
How is Korean New Year different than Chinese New Year?
The association with the Lunar calendar is the biggest connection Korean New Year has to the Chinese New Year now. Both countries have their own celebrations, traditions, games, and special food to ring in the Lunar New Year.
Historically it is debated to have been celebrated in Korea since around the 1st to 9th century. Over the years though celebrations have changed of course, before 설날 might have also included practices for worshipping deities.
설날 also has more of a recent rocky history in South Korea; it was banned under Japanese rule and even after Korea gained it’s independence again 설날 took a while to be reinstated as a holiday.
Is January 1st Still a New Year Celebration in Korean?
South Koreans still have celebration tied with January 1st! Especially since Korea uses your year of birth to determine if one can drink, vote, smoke, is considered an adult, etc. The first almost acts as an pseudo birthday for Koreans and is most important for young adults. On the first, 19 year old’s will be able to drink and for Korean men it means they will be within conscription age and soon have to do their mandatory military service. And of course fireworks go off at midnight and people party pretty much the same as in the west!
What is the Animal in the New Year?
For 2024 the new zodiac animal will be the dragon! Here’s the dates for Lunar New Year and the respective animals for the next few upcoming years as well:
2024 Feb 10: Dragon
2025 Jan 29: Snake
2026 Feb 17: Horse
2027 Feb 7: Goat
2028 Jan 26: Monkey
2029 Feb 13: Rooster
2030 Feb 3: Dog