Art Culture > History > Chinese New Year in Korea Date posted: February 4, 2013

Chinese New Year in Korea

Fashion Editor Yuri Ahn tells u show Chinese New Years is celebrated in her country in Korea.


South Korea is situated between Japan and China. Culturally speaking Korean culture is a good old mix of Chinese and Japanese, though the language is more akin to Japanese. One of the strongest influences of Chinese culture in Korea is the fact we have two new years; we celebrate both on January 31st and the Chinese New Year according to their zodiac.

New Year for us means many things, not just the beginning of the New Year. It’s a day when we look at the past, by remembering the family’s dead as well as looking towards a bright future.


I remember when I was a child my mother and aunts prepared food up to weeks before new year and I used to sneak into the kitchen to taste what was prepared. I had to be careful not to get caught as tradition imposes that the food much not be eaten until metaphorically offered to the ancestors in the family tomb.


The main dish at a Korean New Years’ Eve feast: Tteokguk, tteok meaning rice cake and guk meaning soup in Korean, is a traditional Korean rice cake soup dish, though in my family we prefer it with add-ons such as mandu meat dumplings.( The other typical thing about Korea cuisine is that doesn’t consist in an appetizer, first course, main dish, it’s all presented together on the table, like many hors d’oeuvres. Only dessert is served as a separate item.


The main ingredient is the steamed rice (it is what is bread to Italians), accompanied by side dishes (Banchan) and a main dish placed at the centre of the table and eaten with chopsticks.

The main course is generally a grilled, steamed or fried ingredient with a soup and completed sometimes by a salad (vegetables are really important in Korean cuisine), with sauces, pickles and other dressings.

On the last day of the year, many families take a day trip to beaches on the east coast like Gangneung and Donghae in the Gangwon province. Here we wait to see the first rays of light of the New Year and pray for good fortune.

While in the city, a New Year’s Eve celebration takes place in central Seoul, the South Korean city’s mayor, literally ringing in the new year with the help of participants by hitting a traditional bell in Bosingak pavilion.

Korean New Year is generally a festivity oriented to family and spending tome together, where during the holiday period families unite and visits to far away relatives often take place.



Usually during the New Year festivity we wear the traditional costume, the Hanbok. Adults exchange positive wishes for a good new year while children reverently kneel to the parents in the traditional Sebae, as a way to show respect to the elders. The respect shown is then rewarded with some pocket money and words of wisdom. The traditional silk pouch for these gifts is part of the traditional costume.


One of the most important things over New Years is for the family to be united. It’s like Christmas in the West. We eat and play games together like the. ‘Baduk’ ‘Janggi’ or yut, which originate form the ancient Chinese chess.

This tradition comes from Buddhism, in Korea we have many religions, but much of our traditional culture originates form the teachings of Buddha.




One last thing, we firmly believe in destiny, believing that there is a relationship between the astrological sign and one’s future, explaining why there is such a deep study of the characteristics of the 12 animals of the Chinese astrology. For example, when organizing an important event like a wedding, the Chinese and Koreans both place a huge emphasis on the horoscope of the couple.

The Chinese sign for 2013 is the Snake, the black snake, which only comes every 60 years and brings immense luck.

The characteristics of the snake are many, and very important. The animal is known for a lengthy life span and making many babies over their time, so very often it is a symbol of eternal life, rebirth and protection against dieses, (a snake coiled around a sword is still a sign for pharmacies). Snake also represents fear, due to the venom, but the most important element of the snake is its hibernation and subsequent change of skin. Hibernation takes on the symbol of rebirth, as does the changing of the skin. The snake looses its skin even on the inside of its nose and mouth, resulting in a painful stripping of his old self. The snake is a representation of taking a step back to improve oneself, and to set new goals as well as knowing how to do away with what is not needed, no matter how painful it may be.

Photo Credtis: Jinjusandan, Nayoonhee, Keumkangsilk

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