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 Home >> Attractions >> National holidays
Seolnal, the First Day of a Whole New Year

Next to Chuseok (Thanksgiving day), Seolnal is the biggest holiday celebrated in Korea. It is on January 1st of the lunar calender. Seolnal is one of the three great holidays in Korea along with Chuseok (April 15th of the lunar calender) and Dano (May 5th of the lunar calender).
The meaning of 'Seol' is, to calm down and compose oneself.   It's meaning originated from the Korean words, 'saridah' and 'sahmgahdah' which mean 'to be careful'.   Since days of old, Koreans have considered Seolnal not just a pleasant day, but also as a day to take very careful first steps into the New Year. Because of this belief, many prayer ceremonies for peace take place and are practiced in many families.   

Seolnal is a very busy day.   People get up early in the morning and dress in 'Seolbim' the traditional clothes worn for Seolnal and practice a ceremony called 'Charye'.   Charye takes place by bowing for the deceased ancestors. This is done in remembrance of the deceased.   After 'Charye' is finished, there is one more ceremony called 'Sebae'.   This is done by visiting elders and bowing to them.   The elders give the younger people 'Deokdam' in return.   'Deokdam' is a wish for happiness and success toward others.   As they take a bow to their elders, they say, 'I wish you good luck for the new year'.   Today, elders often give money to the young people who bowed to them.   

When 'Sebae' is finished, the relatives gather around the table and dine together.   The traditional food eaten on Seolnal is 'Ddeokguk'.   'Ddeokguk' is a soup with 'Ddeok' which is made out of rice.   In Korea, people say that they add one more year to their ages only after they eat 'Ddeokguk'.   
Koreans believe that if they hear a lot of good wishes on Seolnal, then the New Year will be just like the wishes received. It is also believed that if they eat a lot of food on Seolnal they will not be hungry in the new year.   

Besides the ceremonies, there are certain traditional games for Seolnal such as 'Yutnori' and 'Yeonnalligi'. Yutnori is enjoyed by almost everyone.   This game is played by throwing four sticks on the ground and moving according to whether sticks are upside down or the direction they lay.   Every Korean knows this game and has played it since they were children and loved by many.

Seolnal is an important holiday that has been celebrated in Korea for ages. The Korean government designates the days around Seolnal as holidays.   This year, the holidays are from 8th Feb to 10th Feb.
26-09-2001
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