Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Culture: Korean Lunar New Year ~ Seollal (설날)

Sunday-past was the first day of the lunar calendar. Hence, for the Korean New Year ~ Seollal l(설날), I made my way over to Mr. Lee's family gathering in Incheon.

There, I met his parents, brother, and his sister's families. Some of the kids and Mr. Lee's brother had the traditional Korean dress on ~ the Hanbok (한복).

It was pretty much a whole day of catching up between family members who congregate on that day at any specified. Usually, families will visit the husband's family, prior to going to the missus's. During the THREE days that Seollal is celebrated, friends will also visit one another.

I can imagine the kids being all psyched up for the New Year, since they receive money from their elders!

As opposed to the casual way that we Malaysian Chinese receive money from elders, kids in Korea have to perform a special bow ~ Jeol (절), while wishing the parents/elders Happy New Year.

The most common wish I have heard thus far is "새해에 복많이 받으십시오 (Saehae ae bokmanhee badeushipshiyo)", which literally translates to "I wish that you receive many blessings for the New Year".

As far as I have heard, some elders even DEMAND that the Jeol be performed in the strictest manner, and family members, especially kids, have to be in their very best Hanboks.

*Current market rate: 1 bow/kid = 10,000 Won (USD$10)

Lest we forget... oh the glorious food! Not sure about other families, but I believe that the New Year's LUNCH is had together with family members.

Traditionally, the main dish would be rice cake soup ~ Ddeokguk (떡국). Consuming the dish on the onset of the New Year, symbolizes that one has grown a year older .

Food doesn't just stop AT lunch, but pretty much goes on for the rest of the day. Apart from your usual soju and beer, Shikhye (식혜) is a common sight served together with other table foods.

Believe it or not, this stuff comes in cans labeled 'NOSTALGIC RICE DRINK'... The name sounds pretty darn corny if you ask me!

Anyway, apart from the food and latest goss, the guys throw in a few games of 'Go-Stop' for the fun of it. (Read: G.A.M.B.L.E.)

Not that I don't want to elaborate on how the game is played, it's just that I haven't quite figured out what the game is yet!

Basically, it's a deck of patterned cards, which is played like the Chinese Mahjong (麻將). From what I observed, each player starts off with a certain number of cards, puts down/draws from a stack in the middle, and tries to collect cards of similar motifs together to obtain points.

Just for your information, Mr. Lee won the most money that night. I am sure it had nothing to do with my visiting him... or could it? :P

Anyway, those were highlights of the New Year I had at Mr. Lee's. Learnt quite a bit about the culture, made new friends, and certainly had a truckload of food... life is good.

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!


At February 01, 2006 7:57 PM, Anonymous Beck said...

Happy Chinese New Year!!!!

Ha ha....can see you have a really fun time. Since you don't gain weight easily, no worries about post-holiday dieting :P

At February 02, 2006 12:20 AM, Anonymous Laynie said...

Eh. Everyone also gambling this year!!

I feel like such a conservative...

At February 02, 2006 1:04 AM, Blogger Jo said...

i only sit there observed ppl gambling..hahaa..and my cousin's fiancee showed us how to play trick (he's magician). wow! tat's amazing..that's fast motion i also canot notice when the card gone missing and been changed. hehee..
Vincent, eat more more more more good food, indulge urself!! yumyum...seems korean kids more 'hanfook', collect more angpow that i did. *sob*
gong xi fa cai!

At February 02, 2006 3:07 PM, Blogger Kurios1978 said...

beck: Kimchi that we consume helps us 'dispose' of excess crap in the system. So I won't be getting too fat anytime soon :P

laynie: Save your money lah

Jo: I didn't collect any $$. The money was reserved for young family members only. In fact, I gave money somemore...

At February 03, 2006 12:32 AM, Blogger Jo said...

vince, u r too old to collect ang pow d...muahaha...
nah...give some to young kids oh...good good...i still young too, can i have one too? LOL


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