새해 복 많이 받으세요

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새해 복 많이 받으세요. This is what you would hear if you are at a Korean household on lunar New Year. The translation of this would be ‘May lot of luck be with you this New Year.’

Lunar New Year, better known as Chinese New Year in Britain is celebrated in many other countries not just China. Countries such as Mongolia, Thailand, Vietnam and Korean recognise this day on the lunar calendar as something worthy to mark with a red letter. In Korean the lunar new year is called 설 or 설날. On this day the family members all gather together and wish each other luck and do activities to start the year on a high note.

In Korean culture our ancestors are believed to look over us and help us along the way of our lives. To thank them and to ask them to do so in the coming years too, we do something called 차례. 차례 is a ritual we fallow in new year morning or dawn to greeting them as we would do to the elders of the family.

This is started by writing the names of the ancestors on a piece of paper and placing it in a frame. Then we set up the table with all kinds of food and the incant is lit. by pouring a drink in front of the frame we welcome the ancestors in to our house. Then the eldest bows twice as they usually lead the ritual, which is followed by bows by other members of the family. As one would do when inviting a guest, the greeting is followed by a meal. Putting the utensils in the right places and leaving the room for a while, we give the spirits there peace to enjoy the food. After a given time, the ritual is done backswords in a way to ask our ancestors to leave and the paper with their names are burnt.

All the food that has been used in 차례 is eaten after the ritual is done. A typical lunar new year food would be 떡국. This is a soup which has Korean rice cakes in them. The broth is made with beef and there are usually pieces of egg that had been cut to thin strands. This dish holds much importance as it represents getting one year older.

We also make wide verities of small savoury pancakes with ingredients like squash, Mung beans and shrimp. These pancakes are presented in a small pile on a dish and are eaten with soy sauce.

Like in many traditional holidays we play games that have been played throughout the country’s history. 윷놀이 is commonly played between lunar new year and the first full moon of the year. It is a type of board game withe two parts, 윷 and 윷판 which is the board. 윷 are 4 pieces of wood that has been curved so one side would be curved and the other side would be flat.

The 윷 is thrown in the air and by how they fall on the ground, it becomes 도, 개, 걸, 윷, 모. 도 being one piece of wood landing on the curved side rest on the flat, 개with two on the flat two on the rounded, 걸 having only one landing on the flat side, 윷 with all four on the rounded side and 모 with all four on the flat side. So, on which position the 윷s land on how many steps one could go on the 윷판 ( the board) is determined. The game is used to bring families together nowadays but in the past, whole villages would have joined in, in a massive game of 윷놀이. it was also used to foretell the years luck in parts of the country.

One tradition that cannot be missed out would be 세배. 세배 is a bow we do to the elders of the family to wish them luck. So the children of the house would bow to their parents aunts and uncles and their grandparents and the adults would bow to the generation before them.

The bow is done in two different ways as the traditional costumes for male and female are different. For men you firstly put your hands together in front of your stomach ( the left had goes on top of the right one) . You now bend down and place your hand on the ground as you bend the left leg. Then you bend the right leg and place the right feet on the left one. As your elbows are on the ground, sit on your foot and do the bow. The forehead should touch the hand for about 3 seconds.

The woman’s bow is also called a half bow as the elbows don’t touch the ground. For this bow you place the right hand on top of the left one and bring it up to your forehead. You look at the ground as doing so. You firstly bend the left leg and then the right just like the men’s bow and the feet are in the same position too. You seat on the feet and bend down about 45 degrees and keep this position for about 3 seconds.

After the bow you stand up the opposite way you have sat down (so the right leg first) and nod to finish.

After the bow the person who had bowed receives a word of good fortune and a bit of money.

Are you ready to learn to bow?  Great job everybody!!!!!!!!

Hee Joo & Jae




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