Travel Guide

Everything You Need To Know About Korean Lunar New Year

Irene
February 6, 2024

Korean Lunar New Year, celebrated on the first day of the lunar calendar, is one of the most important traditional holidays in South Korea. It is a vibrant and meaningful holiday that encapsulates Korean culture, family values, and the hope for a prosperous new year. It's a time for togetherness, reflection, and celebration, offering a glimpse into the heart of Korean traditions.

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year is the celebration of the new year based on the lunisolar calendar. It is an official public holiday celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian countries.

When is Korean Lunar New Year?

Unlike its Gregorian counterpart, Lunar New Year follows the lunisolar calendar, where months are based on moon cycles and years roughly align with the sun's journey around Earth. This creates a mismatch, leading to a "floating" date, typically falling between late January and February.

2024: February 9 ~ 12

2025: January 28 ~ 30

What is Lunar New Year called in Korea?

In Korea, Lunar New Year is called Seollal (설날).

How is Lunar New Year celebrated in Korea?

During Seollal, Koreans gather with their families to pay respects to their ancestors, share traditional foods like Tteokguk (rice cake soup), perform ancestral rites (Charye), play traditional games, and exchange gifts. During Seollal, it is a common tradition to give money to younger family members in special envelopes.

Table set for Charye (Photo source: Hankyung)

Children wearing Hanbok and bowing (Photo source: Hankyung)

Tourists enjoying a traditional game of Yunnori (Photo source: Hankyoreh)

What do Koreans eat during Lunar New Year?

Tteokguk (Rice Cake Soup)

Tteokguk is a must-have dish for Seollal. Made with thinly sliced rice cakes, minced beef or pork, and various garnishes like egg, seaweed, and green onions, this hearty soup symbolizes longevity and the turning of a new year. Eating tteokguk is believed to grant good luck and age by one year.

Order it on Shuttle: Pork Dumpling Soup with Rice Cake from Dami Mandu

Jeon (Korean Pancakes)

Jeon are savory Korean pancakes made with various ingredients such as meat, seafood, or vegetables, dipped in egg wash, and pan-fried until crispy.

Order it on Shuttle: Assorted Jeon from Original Mapo Grandma Bindaetteok

Galbijjim (Braised Beef Short Ribs)

Galbijjim is a popular Korean braised beef dish that features tender, succulent beef ribs simmered in a flavorful sauce until they are fall-off-the-bone tender. The dish is known for its rich, savory, and slightly sweet taste, making it a favorite among many Koreans and visitors alike.

Japchae (Stir-Fried Glass Noodles)

Japchae is a colorful and flavorful dish made with sweet potato starch noodles stir-fried with vegetables, meat, and seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. It is often served during special occasions like Seollal and represents longevity and good health.

Order it on Shuttle: Korean Glass Noodle Rice Bowl from Over The Rice

Yakgwa (Honey Cookies)

Yakgwa are traditional Korean honey cookies made with wheat flour, honey, sesame oil, and ginger. These deep-fried cookies have a delicate texture and are often shaped into intricate patterns. Yakgwa symbolizes sweetness and prosperity in the new year.

Photo source: Tistory

Yakbap (Medicine Rice)

Yakbap is a traditional Korean sweet rice dessert. Yakbap is made by steaming sweet glutinous rice, often mixed with other ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, and honey or brown sugar for sweetness. Common additions to Yakbap include chestnuts, jujubes (red dates), raisins, pine nuts, and sesame seeds. These ingredients not only add flavor and texture but also contribute to the nutritional value of the dish.

Photo source: Yonginon

How do you say Happy New Year in Korean?

The most common greeting around the New Year in Korea is "sae-hae bok mani badeu-seyo" (새해 복 많이 받으세요), which translates to "wishing you lots of luck in the new year".

Are businesses closed during Korean Lunar New Year?

Seollal is a public holiday in South Korea, and many businesses and government offices are closed during this time. You can expect quiet streets and roads in Seoul while locals travel to see family in their hometowns or use the occasion for international travel.

However, Shuttle will be open to fulfill your delicious cravings and help you enjoy the holiday to the fullest.

Happy Seollal!

Cover photo source: Flickr Korea.net