Seollal (Lunar New Year; January 1 of the lunar calendar) is one of the most celebrated national holidays in Korea. This year, Seollal falls on January 31 of the Gregorian calendar. More than just a holiday to mark the beginning of a new year, Seollal is truly a special occasion for Korean people. Not only is it a time for paying respect to ancestors, but it is also an opportunity to catch up with distant family members who travel home to get together for this special occasion. During Seollal, Koreans traditionally wear hanbok (traditional clothes), perform ancestral rites, play folk games, eat traditional foods, listen to stories, and catch up with one another. Read on to discover how Koreans celebrate Seollal.
Seollal demands a lot of preparation, especially in terms of gifts, traveling, and food. As there are many things to purchase for the ancestral rites and gifts, it is usually very crowded in department stores and markets during the days leading up to Seollal. The foods for ancestral rites are prepared with a variety of wild herbs, meat, fish, and fruits all chosen with great attention paid to the quality of shape, color, and freshness.
Another crucial part of preparing for Seollal, especially for those far from home, is travel arrangements. Many people live away from their family home because of their job, marriage, or for studying and travel great distances to celebrate Seollal with their families. So, they all try to book a bus, train, or plane tickets at the same time, which makes ticket reservations very difficult. Meanwhile, traveling by car during the holiday season can take more than two to four times the standard travel time due to heavy traffic on the roads. For this reason, real-time reports of highway traffic conditions during Seollal can be heard on the radio.
As most people are trying to leave big cities to visit their families in their hometown, a recent trend has developed where more parents are visiting their children living in the larger cities as it is more convenient and less crowded. Either way, the journey home during Seollal can be just as exciting as it is stressful.
How do Koreans prepare food for the ancestral rites?
Food during Seollal is taken very seriously. Families spend the entire day before Seollal preparing food to be used as offerings to their ancestors as well as to be served to the family. Many Koreans believe that the taste and appearance of ritual foods determines their ancestors’ level of satisfaction and therefore prepare them with great care. Around 20 different types of food are conventionally placed on the ritual table, though the number of dishes varies by region.
While food preparation was traditionally the job for the women in the family, more families today divide up the responsibilities among their members equally or simply hire holiday catering services, which can cost somewhere between 200,000-300,000 won. This recent trend is especially preferred by young housewives since it alleviates the burden of having to prepare all the ritual food on their own.
[ Source: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr ]
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