Happy Seol-lal!

새해 복 많이 받으세요! Happy Seol-lal (AKA New Years, Korean New Years, Asian New Years, Lunar New Years, etc. ), everyone!

Seol-lal is one of the two biggest (only, now that the birth of Tan-gun has been downgraded…no one can really explain why to me) national holidays in Korean culture and depending on who you talk to, it is either the biggest or the smallest of the two. For Korean Catholics, this is the larger of the two because Chu-seok is more of a Buddhist religious holiday. Food-wise there isn’t too much of a difference between the two holidays, except that for Seol-lal, we eat ddeok-guk (soup made with plain ddeok slices, seaweed, and aromatic vegetables) in addition to the normal holiday fare of chap-jae, bul-gul-gi, kim-chi, etc. As with Chu-seok there is a part of the holiday celebrations to offer up prayers/intentions for the dead and of course traditionally everyone wears their hanboks, and children usually get new ones.

In the olden times, regardless when your birthday was, you aged on Seol-lal, which is quite confusing actually, now basically add add eighteen months to your current age, and that’s your Korean age, much easier right? For kids, not only do they receive new hanboks; after performing se-bae, deep, respectful bows, where you kneel in front of the oldest person in the house, they usually receive some money; and play games, traditionally kites and wrestling for boys, swings and seesaw jumping for the girls, but now more gameboys and computer games.

Father Dennis was telling us this morning that there will be an estimated 25 million Koreans traveling this weekend back to their ancestral homes for the three-day holiday, which is proven by the empty streets and closed shops in Seoul. The first year I made the trips down to Song-tan, but since the holiday train schedule is much slower than the normal timetable, the usual two-hour trip took about three hours. And truthfully, it’s too cold to go stand in the cementary for maybe fifteen minutes staring at the tombstones, not being able to read any of them, thus not knowing which belongs to my a-ppa. So since then I’ve just stayed in Seoul and added my parents’ names to the prayer intention baskets at Myeong Dong Cathedral.

Here’s to a wonderful year of the Tiger to you and your loved ones.

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