A B O U T   K O R E A


Korean Festival :
SEOL - LUNAR NEW YEAR : the Most Important Korean Holidays
"New Year's eve was yesterday, New Year's day is today..."





Sebe :
which is the first greeting to the elders of the year

Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year. This year it was on February 1st. On this very day the year of the Horse began. Seol is, along with " Chusok", one of the two most important holidays in Korea.
The New Year's greeting is "say hay boke-mahn he pah du say oh".
Recently people have started to say "Make a lot of blessings this year". It is a more active saying, isn't it? I think that perhaps it's because of the hardships Korea is going through. If we observe the meaning of the greeting "say hay" means 'New Year', "boke" means 'blessings', "mahn he" means 'a lot' and "pah du say oh", 'please receive'. It literally means "Please receive many New year's blessings".
Many New Year's blessings to you!

Before going into the " New Year's day" ......
let's see what happens on New Year's eve.
"Sut dal kum mum" is New Year's eve in Korean and on that night nobody is supposed to sleep. It's the so called "je yah". There was a belief that if someone slept on that night, the eyebrows would turn white. That was the reason why the light was on at every room, the "maru" and even in the kitchen. This was done to receive the brand new year's day with awaken eyes and brightness. During the New Year's eve day people perform an overall cleaning, brushing off old dust. At the evening they heat water and take a bath. They also burn bamboo sticks to cast off every single house demon. They thought that with the sound of the exploding bamboo's knots, the demons would get scared and run away. At night, as a sign of appreciation, people greet the family's elders and if there is a "sadang" at home they present an offering there. It's the ceremony of the last day of the year.

1.Seol???
2.What do they do in the Lunar New Year's day?
3.What do people do in Seolral for fun?
4.What to eat on seolral
5.Some things that cannot be without on seolral.

1. Seol???

New year's day is called "seol" or "seol ral". It is a very important holiday. "Seol" means 'to be careful', and some says that it means sadness. Others say that "seol" derives from "nat seol da", which means to be unfamiliar. New Years's day can be called "Won Dan", "Won Il", "Shin Won", which are words of Chinese origin. It's also called "jung wol cho harut nal". "Jung wol" means 'January'. "Cho", 'the first', "harut nal", 'first day'. These are solely Korean words.

2.What do they do in the Lunar New Year's day?

What are the common factors in Korean holidays?
"Chesa" or the offering to ancestors: These offerings in holidays are called "chare" because it is served with liquors and teas. New Year's day is not an exception.
Women get busy preparing the food from the previous day. They make "ttok", "garettok", fried meats. They buy fruits, clean the fishes and so on. They spend almost the entire day in the preparations. Nowadays even the dumplings are made at home. The food prepared the day before is placed on the altar. The difference is that instead of rice, as in any other "chesa", on "seolnal", "ttokuk" is on the offering table.

Let's see what they do in the morning of "seolral" Very early in the morning they take a bath and put the "solbim" on. Solbim are new clothes, prepared to wear on seolnal. Usually it is the traditional custome, han bok.

Family members drink a glass of "gui balki sool", which is a liquor that is believed to clarify the hearing. They say these liquors enable one to hear clearly all year long.

Then comes the rite of offering to ancestors. The room must be spotless cleaned first, then a screen and a table altar are placed in the room. On that table several foods are presented. The placement of the food has a certain order.
Jwa po woo rye: On the left jerked meat. On the right rice drink
Doo dong mi seo : East : head. West: tail
Hong dong bek seo : East: red color. West: white color.
"Chi bang" is the paper where the names of ancestors are. At the left men's name and at the right, women's names. Written vertically from left to right the order is: great great grand parents, great grand parents, grand parents, parents.

Table of altar offering

When offering to ancestors, transparent liquor is served and peaches are not included among the fruits offered. Fishes with the name ending in "chi" like kong chi, kal chi are no used. Vegetables may include ko sari, doraji, sookju namul. The broth is made of mussels, shrimp and pulp or squid fish. Jerky can be both of fish or beef.
The above-mentioned rules are commonly observed, but people tend to serve what the deceased liked most while they were alive. (neatly placed) The deceased ancestors must be well nourished so they have enough energy to give many blessings to their descendants.

Method of Chesa(Chare)
1.Oel mo shim : After placing the altar table, at the right time, as a sign to request the spirit to lie down upon them, the head of the ceremony lights the incense, and pours some liquor in the glass, then pours it in the bowl with sand. Later on he bows twice in front of it.
2.Il dong be rye : As a signal that the ceremony is commencing all the participants bow twice.
3.Offering of the first drink : The head of the family steps forward, kneels down on his left knee and awaits the reading of chuk mun.
4.Chuk mun reading : The person who reads the chuk mun kneels down on the left side of the head of the family. After he finishes reading, everybody bows twice.
5.Offering of the next drink : The next person who offers the liquor steps forward, empties it on the teoju bowl and pours liquor, offers it and bows twice.
6.Offering of the final drink : The person who offers the third drink steps forward, drops the second drink on the teoju bowl, serves the third drink and bows twice.
7.More drink : The head of the ceremony steps forward and pours in the last glass three times and beats slightly so the liquor overflows it.
8.Putting a spoon in the rice : The lord of the ceremony opens the cap of the rice bowl and places a spoon east bound. As a signal to request the dead ancestor to receive the offering, everybody prays lowering their heads a little bit.
9."Soong nyoong" offering : The bowl of broth is lowered and "soong nyoong" is served and 3 spoonfuls are placed in the "soong nyoong" bowl.
10.General bow : As a sign of ending the ceremony everybody bows twice.
11.Receiving of blessing : The lord of the ceremony eats a piece of meat and drinks a liquor
12.Removing the offering table : At the end, food is shared and the list of names and chukmoon are burned.

Interesting fact
On "seolral" and "chusuk", "cha re" takes place. Every food on the offering table has its designated place. Do you know why dates(jujube) are placed on the left top? It's because dates represent the king and have only one seed.

After "chare" is over, "sebe" takes place, which is the first greeting to the elders of the year. Later the family has breakfast with the food from the offering table and visits elder relatives and neighbors. The people who receive these greetings prepare a table of foods. Food and liquors are served to adults and children are given candies or money and best wishes for everybody. The reason why they give money to the children is to teach them to save money. In the past it was to buy eggs and grow chickens, sell them and buy a calf. When the calf would grow to be a cow you would sell it later to buy lands to cultivate. After that people visit the tombs of their ancestors.

3. What do people do in Seol-ral for fun?

Kite flying, yut game, top-spinning, snow sliding, etc. are the usual entertainment. However, yut game is probably the most popular among them. Yut is one of the traditional Korean games that can be played anywhere. It's especially popular on New Year's Day. It is customary to play this game from New Year's day until January 15, called Daeborum.

When did this game start? The answer is the first century! It's said that it was not a game at the beginning. In the past "yut" was to know about the fortune in the farming. Some of it remains nowadays but it is not widely known. Today it is taking its place as a game.

Method to play YUT

One can find the following names: do, gye, geol, yut and mo.
"Do" meands 'pig'
"gye" means 'dog'
"geol" means 'sheep'
"yut" means 'cow'
"mo" 'horse'

The reason might be because they were a big part of their assets and in a very close relationship with them in their daily lives. That's how the weight and the pace of those animals are reflected in this yut game. Regarding the weight we can observe that a sheep is bigger than a dog, a cow bigger than a sheep and a horse bigger than a cow. One step of a horse is equivalent to five steps of a pig.

Yut game has 4 sticks

It looks like this.

Don't they look like quadruplets? When they are thrown in the air and the fall down turning up and down it's like a big wresting game scene.
The flat part is the rear one. The curbed part with the drawing is the front. Even when the sticks are on the surface because of this curbed front one never knows what will happen.
This thrill and the tensions are the fun of the game.

If one of the stick is upside down it is called Do (pig)
It two sticks are upside down : gye (dog)
Three sticks, geol (sheep)
If all of them are upside down : yut (cow).
If all four are upside it's called Mo (horse)
Do will advance 1 space , gye 2 spaces, geol 3 spaces, yut 4 spaces and mo 5 spaces.

The Mal will advance 4 spaces and it's called dong. The rival Mal can displace one's Mal. If one of the players get 2 Mals they can run together. The winner will be any playing party that ends 4 Mals first.

In this game, when the Mal is in any of the big circles -which are connected to the lines linked to the biggest circles. If one scores Yut or Mo, or if one catches the rival's Mal there is another chance to throw the sticks. It's important to place the mal in the best position on the Yut-pan for there are 4 Mals for each rival party and the victory depends on that. It;s a battle of strategy and tactics, a sort of two brains fight. Yut can be more than a game to become a gamble some times.

Origin of the Yut-pan

There are 29 circles in the yut-pan. The reason are very well explained in "Theory of Yut-pan" of Kim Moon Pyo from the Chosun era. Extraordinary indeed. The logic of the sky and earth is beneath this small yut-pan. "The round shape of the border represents the sky. The angled part inside, represents the earth. That means that the sky covers until the whole surface. The comet is at the center of the stars and 28 stars are surrounding it."

4. What to eat on seolral?

There is a lot to eat on Korean holidays. If you are on a diet, it will be very difficult to avoid the temptation to all the delicious dishes. Ttok, meat fritters, dried persimmons, a variety of, walnut, dates, vegetables, traditional cookies, etc. Really exquisite foods.
The most representative dish for New Year 's day is ttokkuk.

Meaning of Ttokkuk and how to make......

5.Some things that cannot be without on seolral

5.1 Bok jo ri
Have you ever heard of "bok jo ri"? Literally it is a strainer ("jori") that brings blessings. It is a tool used to clean the rice from small stones or straw particles. People used to buy bok jo ri very early in the morning of New Year's day and hang it up on the wall.
It is to pick up happiness in the New Year as one does with rice grains. In the past street vendors of this product were yelling, announcing the bok jo ri. The person who first hears his voice calls him. The house owner should not go out of the front door. The vendor comes in and then they buy the bok jo ri the earlier the better since they will receive more blessings. The vendor must have been considered a person who brings blessings Nowadays it is difficult to find "bok jo ris" in Korea. It's a pity that on "seolnal" we cannot hear the voice of "bok jo ri" vendors. We just buy them at stores. We miss that romantic past......

5.2 The story of Yakwanggy
As part of the customs of seolnal there is a story of Yakwanggy. Yakwangy is coming to the human world on the night of seolnal after some wandering comes to people's homes. If he founds shoes that fit in his feet he will take them and run away. If one loses the shoes this way it means bad luck for all that year. That is the reason adults and children take all their shoes and put inside the houses and at the attic. So the Yakwangy will not take them away. There is good remedy to cast off the Yakwangy. Turn off the light and keep the shoes inside and hang up a sift at the wall of the internal patio or above the laundry rope. Yakwangy will look for the shoes and he will discover the sift. "What's that? What is it? Why does it have so many eyes?" He thinks that the holes are eyes. "Wow! So many eyes (holes). I don't know how many they are. All right. Let's count them. Let's see how many they are." Yakwangy starts counting and soon he forgets the number and starts all over again and again. He forgets about stealing shoes and keeps counting the entire night. At dawn when the birds sing he runs away. This is a story to send the children to bed early on Seolnal since they must be very tired with no sleep from the eve of New Year's day.

5.3 Fortune telling
From ancient times in Korea there is a tradition to go to a fortune-teller at the beginning of the year. Tojong bigyeol is a book where the fortune-teller consults when he/she has the date of birth of the interested person. The author of Tojong bigyel is Tojong Lee Ji Ham (1517-1578), an eccentric person, from Chosun dynasty.
He was a descendant of a loyal subject of the end of Koryo Dynasty named Mok Eun Lee Saek. He was an expert in diverse family arts. He drew the attention of people for his strange walking. After studying the human condition he came to write this book. Obviously he was turned away by Confucianist yang ban society. But among the commoners his book was widely known until the present days. Mostly not due to the belief in it, but rather for fun.
First it was by elders who read Chinese characters who would tell the fortune of family members. Somehow later on people charge for this service and individuals did this as a way of earning a living.

At the beginning of the year a lot of elders sit with their books on the street . There are fortune-teller will also tell about the past, present and future and judge over the misfortunes and happiness, different from Tojong bigyel. They calculate with calculating sticks based on the Book of Changes. Blind people did this. The reason was that because of social circumstances in the past in Korea blind people did not have access to jobs.

Despite the not so good reputation of the people who work in this field because it is considered mere superstitious ordinary people. Would stick their lives probably because of the numerous hardships Korean people haven been through. People today well into the high logical thinking recur to fortune-tellers regardless of its credibility because they do not know what the future will bring. That might be the reason why now we have even computer fortune teller Fortune tellers were on the street from Nam San to Seoul station but after some urban planning project they are now in Miari.
They call themselves Destiny Philosophers, magical arts, conditions have changed radically, people fall under their commercialism and the old innocent aspect is not available any more.
(Disappearing things in our tradition 2 Robert US Park)

For Further information on SEOL on any part of this Essay please contact us a MAIL and we will be more than happy to answer your questions.





HOME TOP





Copyright (c) 1998 Click Asia All rights reserved.
Contact webmaster@clickasia.co.kr for more information.