Korean New Year, also known as Seollal or Lunar New Year, occurred this past week! It was celebrated from Sunday, February 7th to Wednesday, February 10th, departing from the year of the ram and entering the year of the monkey. People associate the year of the monkey with joyfulness, playfulness and some consider it the year of the fool. Lunar New Year falls on day of the second moon after winter solstice. It is one of the most significant traditional Korean holidays. All citizens get time off work, or school to be with family, enjoy tteokguk (a traditional rice cake soup enjoyed especially at Lunar New Year) and honor past ancestors. More recently, Korean’s have used the holiday to travel to distant family, so it is often the most expensive time of the year to book any form of transportation.
This was my first time celebrating the Lunar new year while teaching in Korea, and it was also the first time I have celebrated a new year other than on January 1st! It was a great experience! My whole ChungDahm branch received 3 days holiday! Gift giving is a very typical part of Lunar New Year, so our branch gifted all the employees with wine. I exchanged some gifts with my Korean co-teacher and head instructor in the April department as well. Everyone was in high spirits to have a holiday.
On the first day of Lunar New Year, some co-workers and I got the chance to attend a traditional Korean performance at the Busan Cultural Center. It consisted of traditional singing, and dancing while wearing traditional Korean hanbok. Hanbok is a type of formal wear that was often worn by rulers or aristocrats throughout Korean history, but now it is more commonly worn to festivals and on special holidays. Hanbok is very colorful and typically consists of a blouse shirt and wrap-around skirt, while men also wear loose pants underneath the skirt. The performance included an amazing orchestra which was composed of traditional Korean instruments such as the gayageum a plucked string instrument, the daegeum, a large bamboo flute, and the nabal which is a long brass horn. My favorite part of the performance was the drumming. The drum has been a very significant instrument throughout Korean history, and this performance certainly highlighted its influence. The typical Korean drum is called a buk, and it can be both stationary and held in hand. The drumming throughout the performance was amazing and completely captivated the audience. It was something I will never forget.
Drummers dress is hanbok at the Busan Cultural Center