K-Culture: Korean Lunar New Year

As the majority of the world celebrated Valentine’s Day last week, some are preparing for one of the biggest national holidays in South Korea – 설날 (seollal). K-drama fans’ social media timelines were probably filled with their favorite celebrities selca with their families as this three-day event centers around family reunions, food, and remembering ancestors.

Let’s feast our eyes with beautiful hanboks, delicious food, and lovely smiles as we delve into Korea’s Lunar New Year.

Seollal 101

Lunar New Year or 설날 is the first day of the lunar Korean calendar. Korea’s largest holiday season typically last three days; new year’s eve, new year’s day, and the day after. Adults typically wear colorful hanbok during the festivities.

Here are some customs Koreans do during Seollal:

  • 차례 (charye) – an ancestral rite is held in the morning of Seollal. A large set of food is prepared and the family gathers in front of the ritual table to pay respect to their ancestors.
  • 세배 (sebae) :   Hoobaes greet their seniors in New Year by this traditional bow. (You probably seen it too on meet-the-parents scene on K-dramas).
  • 세뱃돈 (sebaetdon) : children receive money as new year’s gift from their elders after they perform the 세배 (sebae) and wish them good health and fortune.

Koreans greet their elder by saying “새해 복 많이 받으세요” (sahae bok mani badeuseyo), which means “I wish you many blessings this year.” They also like eating 떡국 (tteokguk) or rice cake soup for the New Year. According to tradition, Koreans get older by one year after eating 떡국. Korean families also often play traditional board games like ‎윷 / 윷놀이 (Yut / Yunnori).

Year of the Golden Dog

Korea’s Lunar New Year follows the Oriental zodiac. The 개 (kae) or dog is the eleventh in the group of twelve animal guardian deities collectively known as the Sibijisin. The cycle repeats every 12 years with each year marked by one jisin. According to Visit Korea‘s website, “it is traditionally believed that people possess the personality of the animal that marks their birth year. Therefore, the year and the time of birth are often used to determine one’s personality and fate.”

The year 2018 is referred to as the Year of the Golden Dog or 무술년 (musullyeon); 무 (mu) means ‘soil mountain,’ representing yellow or gold and 술 (sul) means dog).

Favorite K-drama Fireworks Scenes

On Lunar New Year’s Eve, Koreans celebrate with grandiose fireworks in the belief the loud noise will purged bad luck. I concede I’m using this Seollal article to feature some of the most-loved fireworks scene in dramaland because why not?

Let’s Drink (Drinking Solo)
There are a lot of kiss under the fireworks scenes in K-dramaverse but Jin Jung-Suk (Ha Suk-jin) and Park Ha-na’s (Park Ha-sun) ‘upside down’ kiss is a memorable one.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo
Jung Joon-hyung (Nam Joo-hyuk) taking a photo of Kim Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung) while she unknowingly watch the fireworks is probably one of the sweetest scenes in 2016 dramas.

Joseon Gunman
Getting a kiss from a gorgeous Lee Joon-ki would really make the whole New Year sparkle.

Legend of the Blue Sea
If watching a fireworks display is not romantic for you, then I don’t know what is.


If you have favorite Seollal or fireworks K-drama scene, comment it below!


Sources (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)

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