Celebrating Lunar New Year at Home

This post was originally posted Jan 30 2014.  In 2016, Lunar New Year begins on February 7th and runs through February 10th.


Korea--celebratin seollal at home--Koreaye.com

In Korea, Seollal (Lunar New Year) is one of the most celebrated national holidays. Unlike in America where we celebrate New Years based on the Gregorian Calendar, Koreans celebrate New Year based on the Lunar Calendar. This year Seollal falls on January 31. During this time most Koreans travel back to their home to celebrate with their families. What this means for us it is a four-day weekend (yay!) but also tons of traffic and packed public transportation. So, staying home is the obvious decision since sitting in traffic for hours isn’t very fun, especially with a toddler in tow.

But don’t let that ruin your holiday weekend! Celebrating Seollal is a great way to spend quality time with your family while building new traditions and learning about the Korean culture. Even if you aren’t living in Korea, Seollal can be an awesome learning opportunity or a fun excuse to make Korean food at home. Now that I’ve convinced you to celebrate Seollal, wherever you are, here are 5 (toddler friendly) ways to make it happen!

1. Wear Hanboks! Hanboks are traditional Korean clothes typically worn during Seollal. While I don’t think I’d shell out the money for an adult size hanbok (these are usually custom made and pretty pricey), my daughter has one and it was only 40,000. She will most definitely be wearing hers this year. If you don’t want to purchase a hanbok, you can print out this Korean Paper Doll and dress her up for your Seollal celebration.

2. Play a Traditional Korean Folk Game Gonggi (pronounced gong-gee) is a popular Korean folk game that is similar to Jacks. It is traditionally played using 5 or more small grape-sized pebbles. Small pebbles are cheap and easy to find making this game easy to incorporate into your party. There are many levels to this game but the basics are as follows: With the stones laid out in front of you, select a stone to throw up in the air. While airborne, the picks up one stone on the playing surface then catch the stone. These steps are repeated until all the stones have been caught. This is also a great game for your little to practice motor skills and keeps them busy while you…

3. Make Tteokguk (Rice Cake Soup) I promise this is more delicious than it sounds, and pretty easy to make! The rice cakes in this recipe are sliced into thin oval shapes symbolizing a bright and prosperous new year. Try this recipe from My Korean Eats.

4. Sing Happy Birthday Koreans age a year on the Lunar New Year, not on their actual birthday. Light a candle and sing Happy Birthday, cupcakes optional.

5. Bow to Your Elders During Seollal it is customary to bow deeply to your elders who then reciprocate with monitory gifts. If giving your toddler money doesn’t sound appealing, teach them how to bow and reward them with a small toy or treat, perhaps that optional cupcake I mentioned earlier? I hope you will take this opportunity to explore something new with you family!

Have you ever tried introducing a new holiday or cultural tradition? How did it go?

3 thoughts on “Celebrating Lunar New Year at Home

  1. kelly says:

    These are some cute ideas Tiffany. I’m inspired incorporate some Seollal traditions into my home now. Okay, here’s how I’m thinking it might look for us: I’ll go to E-mart (open today? must check!) and get a couple of those little pouches for money. Then tomorrow will make some version of that rice cake soup (they were selling stacks of those rice cakes at our local market yesterday) followed by birthday cupcake and Happy Birthday song. Then will make the kids bow for us in order to get their money in their new little pouch. Maybe some kind of bowing competition is in order…must record it! Thanks for getting the juices flowing!


  2. MsCaroline says:

    Son #2 (age 16) says his Korean friends look forward to Seollal almost more than Christmas (those who celebrate it) because they get so much money. At the German school where I teach, the Kindergarten and elementary schoolers all wear hanbok on the last day of school before Seollal, practice their bowing, and get ‘gold’ (eg, chocolate) coins. My first year in Korea, I posted about the Seollal bow and found some great YouTube links, which I posted here: http://asiavufullcircle.blogspot.kr/2012/01/happy-belated-new-year.html
    I really love the one of the family bowing – obviously a video sent to loved ones they couldn’t be with!


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