The lunar New Year is around the corner! I hope that this post may inspire you to celebrate the lunar New Year Korean-style!
New Year’s and Korean thanksgiving are probably the two most important holidays in Korean culture. The dates of Korean New Year and Thanksgiving do not necessarily coincide with the “Western” dates of these holidays since Koreans typically mark these occasions according to the lunar calendar. Generally, New Year’s falls sometime in late January to late February by the solar calendar and lasts three days.
Both holidays are important because they are celebrated “en famille”. And just like the American Thanksgiving holiday, people will often return to their hometowns to mark this occasion. Some people may also wear the traditional hanbok on the New Year and/or Thanksgiving Day. There are many other customs that mark each of these holidays, and food is an important one.
Typically, breakfast on New Year or Seollal (in Korean) is the tteokguk: a hearty broth filled with rice cake. The Tteokguk is full of symbolic meaning. Koreans calculate their age in reference to New Year rather than their actual birthday. So eating a bowl of tteokguk means becoming one year older. It is advised, no matter how good the soup is, to refrain from having more than one bowl! You may not be gaining more wisdom with more soup! This may be a difficult exercise. Not only because of the tastiness of the soup, but also because having tteokguk is supposed to grant good luck for the forthcoming year. Tteok is white, so there’s a symbolic element of purity and cleanliness attached to eating tteok to start off the New Year afresh.
Below are some links including some to tteokguk recipes if you’re looking for some more luck for the New Year! Happy New Year!