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6 things you should know about 설날 (Lunar New Year's Day in Korea)

설날 (seollal) : the first day of lunar calendar

설날 is one of the biggest holidays for Koreans. This holiday seasons typically last three days; 설날 eve, 설날 and the day after 설날.
At this time, family members get together and spend time together at 큰집 (keunjip) – the house the eldest brother lives.

차례 (charye) : the ancestor-memorial ceremony

The morning of 설날 begins with an ancestral rite, called 차례. A great deal of food is prepared and set in specific places on the table. Once set, family members gather in front of the ritual table and the ceremony begins with deep bows as greetings to the ancestor spirits. The purpose of this ritual is to express gratitude to ancestors and pay for the family’s well-being throughout the year.

세배 (sebae) : the new year’s bow

세배 is the deep traditional bow of respect to one’s seniors. It consists of deep bows, in which a person kneels to the floor and extends his or her arms outward. Men place their left hand over their right hand, but women put their right hand over their left hand.

“새해 복 많이 받으세요” (sahae bok mani badeuseyo) :

I wish you many blessings this year

When bowing to the elder, Koreans say “새해 복 많이 받으세요,” which means “I wish you many blessings this year.”

세뱃돈 (sebaetdon) : the new year’s gift of money

After children perform the 세배 to family elders wishing them health and good fortune, they receive some money called 세뱃돈, as well as words of wisdom from the elders.

떡국 (tteok-guk) : the rice cake soup

Every new year’s day, Koreans make the traditional rice cake soup called 떡국 and share it with their family. Interestingly, it is commonly said that one must eat a bowl of 떡국 to become one year older.
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