Similar to Singapore, Korea too celebrates the Lunar New Year with family get-togethers. A lot of people who reside close to Seoul take trips back to their hometowns. There are some customs that we follow when family members meet together. These three customs are typical during Korea’s Lunar New Year celebrations:
We begin with a unique ceremony known as Charae. Traditional fare is prepared, including pancakes, meat, and fruit, and all of the items are arranged on a large table. We offer prayers to our ancestors together, hoping for the well-being of our loved ones and the prosperity of our companies. We all share the food together after the prayers. During this festival, we also eat a soup called Tteokguk, which is prepared with rice cake, beef, eggs, and spring onions. Consuming Tteokguk represents gaining an additional year on your age.
Secondly, we do a bowing ritual known as Saebae to honour our elders. Children kneel and make a single bow as parents or grandparents sit on the floor. This gesture is distinctive in that we only bow once, as bowing twice is for the deceased. Following the bow, we take a seat, and our elders give us white envelopes containing pocket money along with some well wishes. Receiving these envelopes as a child made Lunar New Year even more festive.
Lastly, we like to spend time with our family playing board games. Like Korean poker, Hwatu is very popular with adults. We also adore the board game Yootnori, which uses four dice (yoot). Each player advances their game pieces, and the winner is the first to fill the board. It’s an easy-to-play, universal game that everybody may enjoy. Playing these activities during Lunar New Year parties becomes a treasured custom.
We will be playing Yootnori at a cultural event that Sejong Korean Language School (Singapore) is holding in February. Together with your classmates, you can learn how to play this classic board game from Korea. It’s a great chance to socialise, learn more about Korean culture, and use the language outside of Korean language classes.
Written by: Ms Im Minju, February 2024