Traditional dishes and clothes, ritual for ancestors: Korean New Year this year takes place on January 22nd, embodying all traditional Korean values.
This holiday has three days off: the day before and the day after Korean New Year are holidays. This party is institutionally recognized, yet it hasn’t always been like this.
Under the Japanese occupation, between 1910 and 1945, the authorities formally forbade Koreans to celebrate “Seollal”: the New Year was to be celebrated for everyone according to the Gregorian calendar. When the country was liberated, it was not reintroduced as a national holiday. It will have to wait until 1985 for Koreans to benefit from vacation days when the event arrives. In 1989, Minister Roh Taewoo declared “Seollal” the official Korean New Year.
This national holiday is part of Korean traditions inherited from Confucianism. Confucianism is a philosophy conceived by a Chinese philosopher in 4th century BC AD: Confucius. The main principles of him are virtue, piety and respect for elders. The recognition of the existence of the spiritual world is also a guideline of this philosophical current.
Confucius said it was through politics and education that these values should be transmitted. At 2n/a century BC AD, this philosophy becomes the state religion of the Han Dynasty.
In 109 BC, the founding kingdom of Korea, Gojoseon, is invaded by the Han dynasty. The Confucian philosophy was already known from previous migratory movements and trade exchanges between the two nations. But it is at this moment that it is definitively affirmed in Korean culture.
Even today in South Korea some values such as respect for hierarchy, the importance of the family circle or recognition of the spiritual world are inherited from Confucianism. The ‘Seollal’ celebration is a perfect example of this.
Korean New Year, a family celebration
While for some Europeans, New Year is celebrated with friends, for many Koreans, “Seollal” is a family event. Sometimes, the stay gets cut in two between different family members, this is what Kanghyien, 25, is used to: “On New Year’s Eve I go to my parents’ house and on the same day we all go to my grandparents together”.
On the first day of the holiday, i.e. New Year’s Eve, it is customary for relatives to meet and together prepare the dishes that will be served the next day. It is also an opportunity to spend a privileged moment with family members: “Very often, the day before “Seollal”, I take care of my little cousin: we read books together or we go for a walk with his dog” shares Dahye, 29.
Seollal traditions and rites
On the day of “Seollal” itself, when the family is rested and reunited, some of them wear the traditional dress: the Hanbok. It is the spouses who tend to wear it, or the parents who dress their young children: “When we are little, we wear hanboks because our parents think we look cute in them, but when we grow up we stop wearing them. », says Khanghyien.
Many Korean families resort to the “Saebe” ritual which is considered very important during this celebration. Very early in the morning of 1um January, relatives get up, wash their faces, get dressed and get together. “Saebe” is to pay respects to her elders and deceased family members.
To do this, Koreans kneel while bowing their heads once towards their elders and make the same movement lowering their heads twice towards the deceased. “The new year is seen as a renewal of body and mind. When we respect elders, we make a wish out loud or in our head. » explains Sora, 35 years old.
Once the younger ones have performed this ritual, the elders reward them with pocket money in graduated amounts: “Adults donate 10,000 won to college students and 5,000 won to high school students”says Ara, 30, Sora’s little sister.
However, other people do not resort to this practice. This is the case of some people of the Catholic faith like Miji, 40: “Instead, we go to church on New Year’s Day and also pray for the dead. » Once the homage is paid, it’s time to sit down at the table and taste all the dishes that were cooked the day before.
Specific recipes for Seollal festivals
Koreans have specific recipes for special occasions that bring loved ones together for a meal. For the preparation of these dishes, they can be very generous!
As a starter, “tteokguk” is offered. This rice cake based soup is clean and representative of ‘Seollal’. “My aunt prepares the best “tteogkuk”: light and delicious! » shares Kyowoon, 29 years old.
As for accompaniments, we no longer know who to turn to: “kimchi buchimgae” are almost necessarily at stake. These are kimchi patties in which other vegetables or meat can be added. “Dongtaejeon”, or fish pancakes will delight more than one. “Japchae” is also very popular during holidays. These are fried sweet potato noodles, cooked with vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms and often topped with baby spinach.
As for meat dishes, there is something for all tastes! One of the traditional Korean dishes is “dwaejigogi suyuk”: boiled pork presented in slices that can be covered with kimchi. “Galbijjim” is a braised short rib dish. It is cooked with carrots and mushrooms, dipped in a special sauce: “It’s Korean beef bourguignon! jokes Sora.
As for the drink, we’re not talking about champagne! Typical of this celebration is Sikhe, a sweet rice-based drink: “With just the right amount of sugar, it’s so refreshing. I can say it’s my favorite drink. shares Kyowoon, 29 years old.
Since this festival is a time to bring the family together, board games, such as “Yut noori” are often organized for the children. It is a game that uses 5 wooden sticks, called “Yut”. “I remember playing it when I was very young, it was great fun and a great team game that we could have as a family! Kyowoon remember. If it’s ever cold enough, it’s also normal to go out and have fun in the snow: “Seollal” last time we went tobogganing in the neighborhood with my little cousin” recalls Dahye.
The third day of vacation is usually a day of rest. Koreans spend this time at home quietly before returning home.
However, every year, not everyone gets the opportunity to join their family. It is the case of the sisters Sora and Ara this year: “We will abstain because we don’t have time: every year the buses are full, there are traffic jams all over the country during Seollal days! Our family understands. “.