Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: Holidays in South Korea Series on KoreanClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Korean holidays and observances. I’m Brandon, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 1: New Year’s Day.
Unlike Western countries, Koreans celebrate New Year's Day 설날 (seolnal) on the first day of the lunar calendar, not the solar calendar. Because these two calendars don’t align, New Year’s Day in Korea differs each year. For example, in 2013, it was on February 10th, and in 2014, it was on January 31st.
Korean people dress up on New Year’s Day in traditional clothes called 설빔 (seol bim) to celebrate the passing of the old year and the start of a new, fresh year. On New Year’s Day, families typically come together at the home where the parents live. The family gathers for the New Year’s bow, known as 세배 (sebae), and younger members of the family bow to the elders. The family also performs a ceremony to honor their ancestors, known as 제사 (jesa). This holiday carries a lot of meaning for Korean people and is one of the most celebrated holidays of the year.
Now, before we go into more detail, do you know the answer to this question: what is the most crowded place in Korea on New Year’s Day?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The New Year greeting is very important. The 세배 (sebae), mentioned earlier, is the first greeting of the New Year. To do this, Korean people typically get down on their knees, and bow their heads to the ground. Then, they say, "Happy New Year,” or 새해 복 많이 받으세요. (saehae bok mani badeuseyo.) when they bow.
And here’s a bit more detail about 제사 (jesa). It’s a traditional ritual to greet one’s ancestors. It involves putting together a table of carefully prepared foods and asking one’s ancestors to watch over the family during the New Year. During this ceremony, Koreans usually display their ancestors' favorite foods along with basic dishes, such as meat, 고기 (gogi), noodles, 국수 (guksu), and Korean pancakes, 부침개 (buchimgae). In the middle of the table, Koreans usually place a picture of their ancestors or a little wooden sign called 신위 (sinwi). Then all the family members make a big bow or 큰 절(keun jeol) together toward the table.
After the memorial, the family comes together to eat a special dish, called 떡국 (ddeok-guk). This is a type of soup made with thin rice-cake pieces in broth. In South Korea, everyone eats this soup on the morning of New Year's Day. Do you know why? In Korean, when you become one year older, you say, "I ate one more year," 한 살 더 먹었다 (hansal deo meoggeotta) using the same verb that means “to eat food.” 먹다 (meoktta) So, Korean people eat a bowl of this soup on New Year's Day to represent growing one more year in age. Everyone in Korea becomes one year older on New Year's Day, no matter the date of their actual birthday.
Here's our fun fact for the day! Did you know that you’ll hear a special song on New Year’s Day in Korea? If you’re watching television, you’ll hear a song that’s only played on this day. Its lyrics mean something like this: “까치 까치 설날은 어저께구요, 우리우리 설날은 오늘이래요.” (kkachi kkachi seolnareun eojeokkeguyo, uriuri seolnareun oneuriraeyo.) It means “The magpie New Year’s Day was yesterday, and our New Year’s Day is today.”
The "magpie day” or 까치 까치 설날 (kkachi kkachi seolal) means “small New Year’s Day,” which represents the solar calendar New Year on January 1st. So the lyrics mean that the lunar year date of January 1st or 음력 설날 (eumyreok seolnal) is considered our “real” New Year's Day. This just goes to show how much emphasis Koreans put on the lunar calendar date!
Now it’s time to answer our quiz question: what is the most crowded place in Korea on New Year’s Day? It’s the highway. Almost half of the Korean population lives in and around Seoul, so many people need to travel by car to get to their families’ homes elsewhere in the country. Sometimes it can take more than ten times longer than usual to drive there. Nowadays, it’s becoming more common for older family members to travel up to Seoul to save time.
Well, listeners, how was it? Did you learn something new?
In your country, do you have any interesting New Year's traditions?
Please leave us a comment at KoreanClass101.com.
And we’ll see you next time!


Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍
Sorry, please keep your comment under 800 characters. Got a complicated question? Try asking your teacher using My Teacher Messenger.
Sorry, please keep your comment under 800 characters.

Tuesday at 6:30 pm
Pinned Comment
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hello Listeners! How do you celebrate New Year's day in your country? 

Tuesday at 10:17 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Madeleine,

Thanks for posting. The literal translation would be:

새해(New year) 복(luck) 많이(a lot/many) 받으세요(polite way of saying 'receive')=Please receive a lot of luck in the New Year.

Now it is used to say 'Happy new year!'. :)

Hope this was of help.



Team KoreanClass101.com

Sunday at 10:20 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hello! I was wondering if you could maybe tell me what each word in 새해 복 많이 받으세요 mean if it's not too much trouble. I'm just curious of knowing ? ~

Thursday at 7:30 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Toove,

Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback.

We're always happy to receive constructive criticism as we are always working on improving our materials. Your opinion is highly valuable!

If you have any questions, please let us know!



Team KoreanClass101.com

Thursday at 3:56 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

A different subject: I wish the women in your audio lessons would try to make their voices less shrill. Also it sounds as if they are straining their vocal cords. I haven´t heard this one about New Year, so I don´t know how this particular lesson sounds.

Sorry to make such a personal comment, but you keep telling us to comment, and this is really my only complaint.

Tuesday at 10:26 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Mae,

Thank you for your positive feedback!

Let us know if you have any questions ;)


Team KoreanClass101.com

Monday at 4:45 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Yes I learned something new! Thank you.

Tuesday at 10:28 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Dora,

Thank you for sharing with us! We may try carrying an empty suitcase around next year so that we will be able to travel the world! :smile:

Hello Mark,

Spending the holidays with your family seems like a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year's holidays! Thanks for sharing~:smile:



Team KoreanClass101.com

Sunday at 1:50 pm
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

In Canada, it is usually pretty simple. If you are young and live with your family, then you have your family tradition. Usually, you have a family come over and you play games until midnight and you count down from ten to "ring in the New Year." We also have the tradition of making New Year's Resolutions, but these are becoming phased out as they are unrealistic. A resolution that you must commit to for a whole year can become a burden and these resolutions are usually made on a whim. Some people opt to make resolutions throughout the year and for shorter periods such as a month.

The most common New Year's Resolution is to go to the gym and live a healthier lifestyle. Some people also decide to learn a new language as their resolution to become a better person.

My best New Year's was in Toronto, Canada, when I was with this Japanese lady and we went to a central outdoor venue where a Canadian Rap Artist was performing. It was my favourite because it was a little romantic, but cold mind you.

In Canada, New Year's is more relaxed. Everyone has their own personal traditions, and you can go to a New Year's party or not. It all depends on whether you need to go to work or to go to church the next day (which I do ?).

Sunday at 3:23 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.


In Colombia, we celebrate with many different and funny traditions!

The first one is to go around the block in your neighborhood with an empty suitcases to bring into the new year lots of opportunities to travel!

And my personal favorite is when people burn an "año viejo" or a big doll made out of straw that represents the misfortunes of the past year which want to be forgotten away!

Tuesday at 10:25 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Jolande,

Thank you for sharing the New Year's celebration custom in the Netherlands with us! (And yes, what is a celebration without champagne?(as long as it is all in good moderation)) :smiling_imp:

새해 복 많이 받으세요! 그리고 새해에도 공부 열심히 하세요! 화이팅!



Team KoreanClass101.com