New Year’s traditions in South Korea

It’s been a new year again, the new year traditions around the world may vary but the meaning behind it remains the same. To welcome a new day with enthusiasm and thinking positivity. All over the world, people will gather in landmark places to do countdown time and celebrate it with the fireworks festival. In Korea, you can do such celebrations also. The fireworks festival can be found in the city center or popular places. Fireworks are not only the one celebration, in Seoul you can visit the bell-ringing ceremony at Bosingak Belfry monument to ring in the New Year with the striking of the bell.


However, the street surrounding the belfry is so congested since many people come here. If you are just like me who don’t like such crowded events, you can still welcome New Year in Korea by watching the first sunrise at the beach, mountain, or Namsan Seoul Tower to make a great start.

Typically by the sea or at mountains, people wait for sun to rise up.
Typically by the sea or at mountains, people wait for sun to rise up.

In the morning of the New Year, Koreans will wear Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) with bright and pretty colors to symbolize hopes for a bright future. After that, they will go to the elder or parent’s homes to celebrate this event together. A lot of food is prepared and enjoyed by families, but the dish that unique and essential is Tteokguk (rice cake soup). Tteok-guk is the traditional food which is made of a thin slice of white tteok (rice cake), beef, egg, and crushed seaweed as garnish. Come to think of it, Korea has an interesting culture about food. On certain occasions, they always eat certain foods too. For examples: moon-shaped rice cakes (Songpyeon) at the Thanksgiving Day, seaweed soup (Miyeok-guk) at their birthday, or rice cake soup (Tteok-guk) at the New Year’s events.

rice cake soup (Tteok-guk)
Rice cake soup (Tteok-guk)

They believe everyone gets one year older by eating a bowl of tteokguk because everyone turns a year older at the New Year (not on their birthday). After the meal, the young family members perform Sebae (New Year’s bow), present gifts to the elders, and exchange New Year’s wishes and blessings for good health and fortune. The elders will give out Sebaedon (New Year’s money) in return to the young family members (kids).

At old palace, there is a new year's celebration event with Korean traditional costumes (Han-bok).
At old palaces, there is a new year’s celebration event with Korean traditional costumes (Han-bok).

Different region, different traditions. If in Korea the New Year is equal with Tteokguk, in my country (Indonesia) people are welcoming the New Year with the barbeque party with the family members in the night before. We take advantage of this New Year’s moment to gather with family and friends then do pray together to be given health and blessing by God. Whatever the way to celebrate the New Year, hopefully the events can bring a positive spirit for us to keep trying in achieving our goals.