[say hey]

Topic: Korea

Bowing to elders on the new year.
Today is the East Asian lunar new year — what most folks think of as the Chinese New Year, because it was the Chinese lunar calendar that was adopted in Korea and Japan (much the way that Western countries adopted the Catholic calendar). In Korea, the holiday is called Seol (pronounced Saul) and observances are centered on the family, sort of like our Thanksgiving. Koreans return to their family homes, where they traditionally feast, provide offerings to their ancestors and ritually bow to their elders. A traditional food is tteok (pronounced duck), or pounded rice cakes, similar to the mochi that is eaten in Japan on the new year (and that causes several choking deaths each year, so be careful if you partake).

The traditional new year’s greeting in Chinese is gung hay fat choy, and I feel confident that this is actually true because I heard a couple of Chinese women at my Korean class last night say it to each other, and when I asked, they told me it was correct. The Korean greeting is a bit more complicated. Are you ready?

Saehae pok mani padeuseyo.
(Remember that eu is pronounced like the u in put.) The greeting means, literally, “May you have much luck in the new year.”

For a whole lot more information on Seol, including some fun stuff on the traditional game of yut, check out this page at ClickAsia.com.