Minhee Son was born and raised in Korea, and is now studying English in Queens College as an ESL student. Because she loves her own country and its culture, she wants to inform people in many countries about Korean culture. This is why she is learning English now.
Lunar New Year's Day in Korea
Every country observes different holidays depending on their religions, their history, and their culture, but celebrating the New Year seems to be universal all over the earth. In some countries, people celebrate the New Year by counting down the last seconds of the old year together in the same place. Unlike these countries, in others people pray for hope for their own new year. In Korea, we celebrate Lunar New Year's Day, which is the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar, and we pray to our ancestors for a good new year. The celebration of Korean New Year's Day follows these three steps: preparing dishes and drinks, the ritual praying to our ancestor, and having a meal together and giving money to the younger generation.
To begin with, before the main event starts, each family's relatives make the preparations for foods, drinks, and the ritual. Both meals and the ritual are important, but food especially is important because it was what the ancestors used to enjoy when they were alive. Like in most countries, women generally prepare all the dishes for the event. Among the dishes, there are rice and soup, which are daily dishes in Korea, also many kinds of vegetables and fruits, and even desserts. Once all the food is ready, the men start to prepare the ritual. They bring the ancestor's picture and put it the center of the table. Although there are a lot of ancestors in a family history, we only use the last ancestor's picture for the ritual. Then the first son of the ancestor puts a letter written to his father next to the picture. If there isn't any son of the ancestor, the grandson fills this role for his grandfather.
When all these preliminaries are ready, the main event starts. During it, all family members and relatives have to be in front of the ancestor's picture on the table. The ritual starts when the first son or first grandson bows down to the floor to show respect for his ancestor. Because the bow for a dead person has to be done twice, every family member bows twice after the first son's or grandson's turn. After he finishes his turn, the order for the bow goes from men to women. It is because in ancient times in Korea, as well as today, men are usually regarded as more important than women. However, before all men and women bow down, there is something to remember: All of them have to fill a cup with alcohol for their ancestor. This means they hope their ancestor will eat all the dishes without getting indigestion. If everyone has finished their bowing, they wait for a while because they believe that their ancestor needs time to come and eat the dishes. For the same reason, when people wait for their ancestor, they usually open the door to welcome him in.
When the ritual has ended, it is time to have lunch together with all family members. Because today it is really difficult for the whole family to gather in one place, all members are supposed to join in the meal. During the meal, the older people in the family tell young people wise words related to health, money, and love, and then the younger generation responds to these words with gratitude. After the lunch, all the younger generation of the family bow again to their elders. This can be done between parents and children, or grandparents and grandchildren. This time, because the people who receive the bow from the younger generation are alive, the bow is done once. If someone bows twice to a living person, it is seriously thought of as disrespectful behavior. Once the young have finished their bowing, the older members of the family give them some money. The amount of money is up to the individual. If some relatives earn a lot of money, they can give the person who bowed to them more money. Usually as a child grows up, the amount of money that this child gets also increases.
In conclusion, as many countries do, Korea celebrates New Year's Day by making traditional foods, showing respect to their ancestors, and enjoying a family reunion with relatives.