Seollal Festival South Korea (Korean New Year)

Seollal Festival South Korea

The Seollal Festival, also known as the Lunar New Year, is one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays in South Korea. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the lunar calendar and is a time for family reunions, traditional rituals, and delicious food.

This festival has been celebrated for centuries in Korea and holds great cultural significance. It typically falls between late January to mid-February, depending on the lunar cycle. The exact date changes each year but it always begins on the first day of the lunar calendar.

In recent years, Seollal has become increasingly popular with tourists who want to experience Korean culture firsthand. Many tourist spots offer special programs and activities during this time, making it a great opportunity for travelers to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere.

Facts About The Seollal Festival South Korea

FactsBrief Explanation
Name of the FestivalSeollal Festival
Type of FestivalCultural (with some religious elements)
City of OriginCelebrated nationwide, but let’s focus on Seoul for this context
Festival Etymology“Seollal” is the Korean word for Lunar New Year, marking the first day of the Korean lunar calendar.
Date When it Was Celebrated FirstTraditionally, since ancient times (specific dates vary, but it’s rooted in Korea’s early history)
Founder of the FestivalNot attributed to a specific founder; it’s a traditional celebration
Brief History of the FestivalSeollal Festival is a significant traditional holiday in South Korea, celebrating the first day of the Korean lunar calendar. It’s a time for honoring ancestors, performing traditional rites, and spending time with family. Historically, Seollal involved various customs and rituals to bring good fortune and ward off evil spirits for the coming year.
Brief History of the CitySeoul, the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea, has a rich history dating back over 2,000 years. It was established as the capital city during the Joseon Dynasty in 1394. Seoul has evolved from the historic city of Hanyang to a leading global city, embodying a blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge technology.
Ethnic Information of the City and RegionPredominantly Korean; Seoul is a cosmopolitan city with a small percentage of foreign residents.
Location of the City in the CountrySeoul is located in the northwest part of South Korea, near the Han River.
How to Reach the CityAccessible via Incheon International Airport, followed by a train or bus to Seoul. Major highways and high-speed train services (KTX) connect Seoul with other cities.
Nearby and Surrounding Cities or Towns– Incheon (28 km west)
– Suwon (30 km south)
– Goyang (16 km north)
– Seongnam (20 km southeast)
Google Map Link to the City LocationGoogle Maps – Seoul
Main Events and Activities– Ancestral rites (Charye)
– Wearing traditional Korean dress (Hanbok)
– Playing traditional Korean games (Yutnori)
– Sharing special Seollal meals (Tteokguk – rice cake soup)
Famous Tourist Attractions and Landmarks– Gyeongbokgung Palace: The main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty.
– N Seoul Tower: Offers panoramic views of Seoul.
– Bukchon Hanok Village: Traditional Korean village with preserved hanok houses.
– Myeongdong: Shopping and cultural district known for its street food and cosmetics shops.
Famous Food Dishes of the City– Kimchi: Fermented vegetable dish, a staple in Korean cuisine.
– Bulgogi: Marinated beef barbecue.
– Bibimbap: Mixed rice with vegetables and beef, often topped with a fried egg.
Related Festivals– Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day)
– Dano (Spring festival)
– Hangawi (Another name for Chuseok)

The History and Significance of Seollal

Seollal, also known as Korean New Year, is one of the most important holidays in South Korea. Its history and significance can be traced back thousands of years. Seollal marks the beginning of a new lunar year and is deeply rooted in traditional customs and beliefs.

The origins of Seollal can be found in ancient agricultural rituals that were performed to pray for a bountiful harvest. Over time, these rituals evolved into a holiday that celebrates family ties and ancestral reverence. Seollal provides an opportunity for families to come together and pay respects to their ancestors through various ceremonial activities.

One of the key traditions during Seollal is the ancestral memorial service called “Charye.” Families gather around an ancestor’s memorial tablet and offer food, drinks, and other offerings as a way to show gratitude and seek blessings from their ancestors for the upcoming year.

Another significant aspect of Seollal is the practice of performing “Sebae,” which involves bowing to elders as a sign of respect. Younger generations greet their parents, grandparents, and other older relatives by offering deep bows while wishing them good health, happiness, and prosperity.

Food plays a central role in Seollal celebrations. Traditional dishes such as tteokguk (rice cake soup), jeon (pan-fried foods), mandu (dumplings), and various fruits are prepared with great care. Each dish holds a symbolic meaning related to luck or prosperity for the coming year.

Throughout history, Seollal has continuously adapted to changing times while preserving its core values. In modern times, it has become common for families to travel long distances to spend quality time together during this special occasion.

While there may be regional variations in how Seollal is celebrated across South Korea, its underlying message remains consistent – fostering strong familial bonds while honoring one’s heritage.

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Even outside South Korea’s borders, Korean communities around the world still celebrate Seollal, ensuring that the traditions and customs continue to be passed down through

Seollal Traditions and Customs

Seollal, also known as Korean New Year, is a festival that holds great importance in South Korea. It is a time for families to come together and celebrate the start of a new lunar year. Seollal brings with it a variety of traditions and customs that have been passed down from generation to generation.

  • One of the key traditions during Seollal is the ancestral rites known as Charye. Families gather to pay respects to their ancestors by preparing an elaborate table filled with food offerings. They believe that this act will bring good fortune and blessings for the coming year.
  • Another important custom is called Sebae, which involves bowing to elders as a sign of respect. Younger family members bow deeply while wishing their elders health and prosperity. In return, they receive blessings and small gifts or money called “Sebaetdon.”

Food plays a central role in Seollal celebrations as well. Tteokguk, a traditional rice cake soup, is prepared and eaten on New Year’s Day. The round shape of the tteok symbolizes unity and harmony within the family.

  • Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, is worn during Seollal festivities. People take pride in donning these beautiful garments in vibrant colors such as red and yellow.
  • Folk games like Yutnori are also played during Seollal gatherings. Yutnori involves throwing four wooden sticks onto a game board marked with different spaces – each space representing various moves or penalties.
  • As times change, some aspects of celebrating Seollal have evolved, too. While traditionally celebrated over three days, many people now only have one day off work or school for the holiday due to modern lifestyles.

While there are regional variations in how Seollal is celebrated across South Korea – such as differences in food preferences or specific rituals – one thing remains constant: it’s all about spending quality time with loved ones.

Even outside of South Korea, Koreans around the world still gather with family and friends to celebrate

The Role of Food in Seollal Celebrations

Tteokguk Soup Seollal Festival South Korea
Tteokguk Soup Seollal Festival South Korea

Food holds a special place in the celebrations of Seollal, the Korean New Year. This festival is not just about gathering with family and friends, but it’s also an opportunity to indulge in traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations.

  • One of the most important foods during Seollal is Tteokguk, a delicious rice cake soup. It symbolizes good luck and longevity for the coming year. The round shape of the rice cakes represents unity and harmony within families.
  • Another popular dish is jeon, which are savory pancakes made with various ingredients like vegetables, seafood, or meat. All ages enjoy these crispy delights during Seollal gatherings.
  • In addition to these main dishes, there are a variety of side dishes called banchan served alongside the main meal. These can include kimchi (fermented cabbage), japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), and bulgogi (marinated grilled beef).

It’s worth mentioning that each region in South Korea has its unique culinary traditions for Seollal. For example, people from Jeolla Province enjoy making mandu (dumplings) as part of their festivities.

Yakgwa Traditional South Korean Sweet
Yakgwa Traditional South Korean Sweet

Food plays such an integral role in fostering connections between loved ones during this festive time. It brings everyone together around the table to share stories and laughter and create lasting memories.

So, if you ever find yourself celebrating Seollal in South Korea or with Korean friends abroad, make sure to savor every bite of these delectable dishes while immersing yourself in this rich cultural experience!

Hanbok: The Traditional Korean Dress

When it comes to traditional attire, the Hanbok truly stands out as a symbol of elegance and beauty in Korean culture. With its vibrant colors and graceful silhouette, this traditional dress has been worn for centuries during special occasions such as Seollal, the Korean New Year.

The Hanbok is characterized by its loose-fitting design, with a jeogori (jacket) on top and baji (pants) or chima (skirt) on the bottom. The materials used are typically silk or cotton, providing comfort and breathability even in warm weather.

What sets the Hanbok apart from other traditional dresses around the world is its intricate embroidery and patterns. Each region in Korea has its unique style of decorating garments with motifs inspired by nature, like flowers, birds, or waves.

Wearing Hanbok during Seollal not only showcases respect for tradition but also reflects cultural pride. It is an opportunity for Koreans to connect with their roots and honor their ancestors who have passed down these traditions through generations.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Hanbok among younger generations. Designers have started incorporating modern elements into traditional designs to create fusion pieces that appeal to a wider audience.

During Seollal celebrations, you can often see families dressed in matching or coordinated Hanboks while paying respects at ancestral gravesites or participating in various activities such as playing folk games together.

The significance of wearing a Hanbok goes beyond just clothing; it represents unity within families and serves as a visual reminder of preserving cultural heritage amidst changing times. It’s no wonder that many Koreans take great pride in donning this exquisite attire during Seollal festivities!

Sebae: The New Year’s Bow

Sebae, also known as the New Year’s Bow, is a cherished tradition during Seollal, the Korean New Year. It is a beautiful and respectful gesture performed by younger generations to show respect to their elders.

During Sebae, children and young adults bow deeply in front of their parents and grandparents while wishing them good health and fortune for the upcoming year. The bowing ceremony is accompanied by the phrase “Saehae bok mani badeuseyo,” which translates to “Please receive many blessings in the new year.”

This age-old custom holds great significance in Korean culture as it symbolizes filial piety and gratitude towards one’s ancestors. It is believed that through this act of respect, individuals can receive blessings from their elders.

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The New Year’s Bow serves as a reminder of the importance of family ties and honoring one’s heritage. It fosters a sense of unity among family members and reinforces traditional values passed down from generation to generation.

As time progresses, some variations have emerged regarding how Sebae is performed. In modern times, it has become common for families to exchange bows with each other instead of only between generations. This allows everyone present at the gathering to express their well-wishes for each other.

Sebae not only strengthens family bonds but also promotes harmony within communities during this festive season. Through this simple yet profound act of bowing, Koreans embrace their cultural roots while embracing hope for a prosperous future.

Folk Games and Activities during Seollal

Seollal, the Korean New Year, is not just a time for family gatherings and feasting on delicious food. It’s also a time for playing traditional folk games and engaging in various activities that have been passed down through generations.

  • One popular game played during Seollal is Yutnori. This game involves tossing four wooden sticks onto a board marked with lines and symbols. Depending on how the sticks land, players move their tokens along the board, trying to reach the finish line before their opponents. It’s a fun and strategic game that can get quite competitive!
  • Another favourite activity during Seollal is Jegichagi, similar to a hacky sack or footbag. Players use their feet to keep a small shuttlecock-like object called jegi in the air without letting it touch the ground. It requires agility, coordination, and quick reflexes.
  • Traditional wrestling, known as Ssireum, is also commonly enjoyed during Seollal festivities. Two wrestlers wearing satin belts around their waists face off in an open field or on mats while spectators cheer them on. The goal is to force your opponent out of bounds or make them touch any part of their body other than their feet on the ground.
  • Aside from these physical games, there are also mental challenges like Neolttwigi, which translates to “seesaw jumping.” In this game, two people stand opposite each other on either end of a long wooden plank held by others at each side. The participants jump up simultaneously using only one leg while trying to maintain balance – it’s definitely not as easy as it sounds!
  • Other activities include making traditional crafts such as Tteokguk (rice cake soup) together as a family or participating in performances like traditional dances or music recitals.

Seoul South Korea longitude and latitude

How To Reach Seoul South Korea

To reach Seoul, South Korea, follow these steps:

  1. By Air: Fly into Incheon International Airport (ICN), the main gateway for international travelers to Seoul and South Korea. It’s one of the busiest and most efficient airports globally, located about 48 kilometers west of Seoul. From the airport, you can take a direct train, the AREX (Airport Railroad Express), which offers an express service to Seoul Station in just 43 minutes. Alternatively, airport buses, known as limousine buses, provide comfortable rides to various parts of Seoul.
  2. By Train: If you’re traveling from within South Korea, high-speed trains (KTX, Korail) connect Seoul with major South Korean cities. Seoul Station is the central hub for trains coming into the city. The KTX can get you from Busan to Seoul in under 3 hours, offering a fast and efficient travel option.
  3. By Bus: Intercity buses connect Seoul with other regions across South Korea. The main bus terminals in Seoul are the Express Bus Terminal and the Central City Bus Terminal. Buses are frequent, affordable, and cover most destinations within the country.
  4. By Car: Major highways link Seoul with other parts of South Korea. If you’re renting a car or driving, you can use the Gyeongbu Expressway (for travel between Seoul and Busan), and other well-maintained expressways. Driving allows for flexible travel but be mindful of traffic, especially during peak hours and holidays.
  5. By Sea: If you’re coming from China or Japan, ferry services operate to Incheon, allowing for a unique way to enter the country. From Incheon, you can easily travel to Seoul by bus or train.

Once in Seoul, the city’s extensive and efficient public transportation system, including subways, buses, and taxis, makes getting around straightforward and convenient.

What is Seoul South Korea longitude and latitude?

The latitude of Seoul, South Korea is approximately 37.532600 to 37.5660, and the longitude is approximately 126.9784 to 127.024612. These coordinates place Seoul in close proximity to the Yellow Sea, with the city covering 0.28% of the entire Korean Peninsula. The specific coordinates can be expressed in both decimal degrees and degrees, minutes, and seconds (DMS) format.

The latitude and longitude coordinates for Seoul are as follows:

  • Decimal: 37.532600, 127.024612
  • DMS: 37Β° 31′ 57.3600” N, 127Β° 1′ 28.6032” E
  • Another source provides the coordinates as: 37.566, 126.9784
  • DMS: 37Β°33’57.6″N, 126Β°58’42.24″E[1][2][3]

Seoul South Korea Map

Seollal in the Modern Era: Changes and Adaptations

Seollal, the Korean New Year, has evolved and adapted over time to reflect the changing modern era. While many traditional customs are still practiced during this festive occasion, there have been some notable changes in how Seollal is celebrated today.

One significant change is the increased emphasis on family reunions and spending quality time together. In the past, Seollal was primarily a time for honoring ancestors and performing ancestral rites. However, as Korean society has become more fast-paced and individualistic, families now prioritize coming together during this holiday to strengthen their bonds and create lasting memories.

Another adaptation in recent years is the incorporation of technology into Seollal celebrations. With the rise of smartphones and social media platforms, it has become common for families to send digital greetings instead of handwritten cards or visit relatives virtually through video calls. This allows loved ones who are unable to travel long distances to still participate in the festivities.

In addition, while traditional games such as Yutnori (a board game) and Jegichagi (a shuttlecock kicking game) remain popular during Seollal gatherings, modern activities like karaoke sessions or movie marathons have also gained popularity among younger generations. These contemporary forms of entertainment bring a fresh twist to the celebrations while fostering laughter and enjoyment among family members.

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Furthermore, with greater exposure to global cultures through travel and media influences, some Koreans have started incorporating elements from other countries’ New Year traditions into their Seollal festivities. For example, exchanging small gifts or setting off fireworks – practices commonly associated with Western New Year celebrations can now be seen alongside traditional customs during Seollal.

As times continue to change rapidly in our increasingly interconnected world, cultural festivals like Seollal need to adapt without losing sight of their roots. The modern era brings new opportunities for innovation while preserving cherished traditions that hold deep meaning within Korean culture. So whether you celebrate it traditionally or with a contemporary twist, Seollal remains a special time for Koreans to come together.

Regional Variations of Seollal Celebrations in South Korea

Seollal, the Korean New Year, is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm throughout South Korea. However, just like any other festival, Seollal also has regional variations that add a unique flavor to the celebrations.

  • In the capital city of Seoul, families gather at home to pay respects to their ancestors through ancestral rites called “charye.” They then engage in various traditional activities, such as playing folk games like yutnori and jegichagi. On the other hand, in Busan, a coastal city in the south, Seollal takes on a more relaxed tone, with families enjoying seafood feasts and participating in outdoor activities by the beach.
  •  Jeju Island, known for its stunning landscapes and culture distinct from mainland Korea’s traditions, is observed during Seollal. Here, locals perform traditional music called “pansori” and enjoy horseback riding competitions. In Gyeongju, often referred to as the museum without walls due to its rich history dating back thousands of years ago, celebrate Seollal by visiting ancient tombs and engaging in cultural performances.
  •  Each region brings its own set of customs and traditions, making it fascinating for visitors looking to experience Seollal across different parts of South Korea. Whether you’re captivated by the vibrant energy of Seoul or intrigued by Jeju Island’s unique traditions – exploring regional variations can be an enriching way to immerse yourself in this special holiday truly.

Surprising Facts About The Seollal Festival

Here are ten surprising and interesting facts about Seollal that might not be widely known:

  • πŸŒ… Early Celebrations: Seollal wasn’t always observed on the first day of the lunar calendar. Historical records suggest that ancient Koreans celebrated the new year around the time of the winter solstice.
  • 🍲 Tteokguk for Age: Eating a bowl of tteokguk (rice cake soup) on Seollal is believed to add a year to your age. It’s a unique tradition that emphasizes the importance of the meal in celebrating the festival.
  • 🎲 Yut Nori: Seollal is incomplete without playing traditional board games like Yut Nori. This game, which involves throwing wooden sticks, has been a festive activity for centuries, promoting family bonding.
  • 🧧 Sebae: Younger members of the family perform a deep bow called sebae to their elders as a sign of respect and in return, they often receive sebaetdon (New Year’s money) and words of wisdom.
  • 🐾 Ancestor Worship: Charye is a solemn ceremony where families pay respect to their ancestors by preparing a table with food offerings, showcasing the importance of filial piety in Korean culture.
  • 🌾 First Sunrise: Many Koreans wake up early to watch the first sunrise of the year, known as “haeundae.” This practice is believed to bring good luck and fortune for the coming year.
  • 🎡 Folk Games: Beyond Yut Nori, Seollal is celebrated with various traditional folk games like neolttwigi (seesawing), jegichagi (a game similar to hackysack), and kite flying, reflecting Korea’s rich cultural heritage.
  • 🍴 Special Dishes: Apart from tteokguk, other special dishes prepared during Seollal include jeon (Korean pancakes), japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), and mandu (dumplings), each symbolizing good fortune, health, and wealth.
  • πŸ‘˜ Hanbok: Wearing hanbok, the traditional Korean attire, is a common practice during Seollal. This not only honors ancestors but also showcases Korea’s beautiful traditional fashion.
  • πŸ“… Zodiac Signs: Seollal also marks the beginning of a new animal’s year in the 12-year cycle of the Korean zodiac, similar to the Chinese zodiac. Each year is associated with specific traits and fortunes believed to influence the lives of people born in that year.

How Seollal is Celebrated by Koreans Around the World

Seollal, the Korean New Year, is not just celebrated in South Korea. It has also become an important festival for Koreans living all around the world. From bustling cities to rural towns, Koreans come together to honor their traditions and celebrate their heritage.

In countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe, Korean communities gather to mark this special occasion. They organize events such as cultural performances, traditional games, and food festivals that showcase the rich customs of Seollal.

  • One of the highlights of these celebrations is the sharing of traditional foods. Families prepare dishes like Tteokguk (rice cake soup) and jeon (savory pancakes) to symbolize good fortune for the coming year. The aroma of these delicacies fills homes and community centers alike as everyone indulges in a feast fit for a king.
  • Another significant aspect is wearing a Hanbok, which adds a touch of elegance and tradition to festivities no matter where they are held. This beautiful attire reflects centuries-old fashion trends while showcasing intricate designs and vibrant colors that evoke a sense of pride in one’s heritage.
  • Folk games are also played during these international Seollal gatherings. Games like Yutnori (a board game), Jegichagi (a foot-volleyball game), or Neolttwigi (seesaw jumping) bring laughter and joy as people compete against each other with great enthusiasm.
  • As time goes on and technology advances further into our lives, some adaptations have been made to how Seollal is celebrated overseas. For instance, virtual reunions through video calls have become increasingly popular among families unable to be physically present due to distance or travel restrictions.

These global celebrations offer opportunities for cultural exchange between Koreans and people from diverse backgrounds who want to learn more about Korean traditions firsthand. It fosters understanding between different cultures while promoting unity within the Korean community abroad.

Tips for Experiencing Seollal as a Visitor

If you find yourself in South Korea during the festive season of Seollal, also known as Korean New Year, you’re in for a treat! It’s an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and traditions of this beautiful country. Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your experience:

  1. Plan: Seollal is one of the busiest times in South Korea, so it’s important to plan your trip well in advance. Make sure to book accommodations and transportation early to avoid any last-minute hassles.
  2.  Embrace tradition: Take part in traditional activities such as wearing Hanbok, making and sharing tteok (rice cakes), or playing folk games like Yut Nori. These customs offer a deeper understanding of Korean culture and allow you to connect with locals on a more personal level.
  3.  Learn basic greetings: Learning a few basic Korean phrases will go a long way during your visit. Greet people with “Seollal Chukha Hamnida,” which means “Happy New Year,” and show respect by using formal language when addressing elders.
  4.  Try traditional dishes: Food plays an integral role during Seollal celebrations, so don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in delicious Korean delicacies like jeon (savory pancakes), japchae (stir-fried noodles), or Galbi-jjim (braised short ribs). Be open-minded and willing to try new flavors!
  5.  Dress appropriately: If you have the chance, rent or purchase a hanbok a traditional Korean dress- before attending any festivities. Not only will it enhance your experience, but it will also demonstrate your appreciation for their cultural heritage.
  6.  Respect local customs: Koreans value respect above all else, so be mindful of their customs at all times. Remove shoes when entering someone’s home, bow when greeting elders, and avoid pointing with your index finger.


Seollal, the Korean New Year, is a pivotal cultural event, marking a time for family reunions, ancestral honors, and new beginnings, embodying South Korea’s cultural identity. It’s a period rich in traditions, from ancestral rituals to bowing to elders, emphasizing respect for family.

Central to the celebration is the feast, featuring Tteokguk and jeon, symbolizing longevity and prosperity, enhancing family bonds. Wearing Hanbok showcases cultural pride, while the Sebae ceremony underscores filial piety.

Folk games like Yutnori foster community spirit, adding fun to the festivities. Despite evolving with technology, like video call reunions, the essence of Seollal remains, reflecting Korea’s enduring heritage and values.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When is Seollal celebrated?

A: Seollal is celebrated on the first day of the Lunar New Year, which usually falls in late January or early February.

Q: What are some traditional foods eaten during Seollal?

A: Tteokguk (rice cake soup), jeon (savory pancakes), and mandu (dumplings) are common dishes served during Seollal.

Q: Why is the Hanbok important during Seollal?

A: Hanbok represents tradition and cultural identity, and wearing it during Seollal shows respect for Korean heritage.

Q: What is the significance of Sebae (New Year’s bowing ceremony) during Seollal?

A: Sebae is a way to show respect towards older generations and embody filial piety, a fundamental value in Korean culture.

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