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Happy New Year (again) – the real New Years party – 설날

설날 is where it’s at.

Hey, it wouldn’t be KoreanClass101 without a culture class on this holiday.

You might be wondering why this new year is not on the same day as our traditional new years party in the West. Because just like all other complicated math concepts in Korea, this holiday is based on the lunar calendar and not the solar calendar. The solar calendar is what we receive in the mail for free from the ASPCA and the like. The lunar calendar is what changes from year to year. Here’s a 2009 list of solar and lunar holidays in Korea.

So, if it seems like Koreans were late to your New Years party by a few weeks, that’s the problem. Plus, solar new year is not as big of a deal in many Asian countries, not just Korea (excluding Japan). However, Koreans do something on January 1st, too. Typically, solar new year’s eve is a couple day in Korea while it’s more of a party-until-you-can’t-remember-where-you-parked holiday In America usually spent with friends. By the same token,  설날 is practically nonexistent in America and known more commonly as Chinese New Year. This title, I’m sure, is offensive to other cultures (like Vietnamese, Indian, etc) who celebrate Lunar New Year quite differently than the Chinese but at similar times. However, I guess that’s just the name of the game in America.

What this celebration means to most Koreans is that it’s a time for one of the biggest family get-togethers. For younger family members it means 세뱃돈, 세배, and lots of questions about school. For older family members it means 성묘, 차례, and possibly wearing 한복. For everyone involved it means traveling, partying, good food, and close quarters. Allow this unnaturally perfect photo to demonstrate:


As far as entertainment (other than kind provided by 소주) two games come to mind: 윷놀이 and 화투.  Can you believe I found a yutnori iPhone app? As far as food, 떡국 is the staple. It’s just not 설날 without 떡국. It’s like the square/rectangle relationship. All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, right? Well, you can eat 떡국 on a day other than 설날 but 설날 must have 떡국.

Does anyone have a story about their experiences with 설날? How about Korean New Years versus your own culture’s new year celebration.

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Nice little thing to wakeup to...