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The Korean Seol Culture

In Korea, Seol signifies the start of a new year. On the day, all in the family, who are scattered across the country, get together in one place. Usually, children who are gone to city head home to spend time with their parents.

And the family now home prepare food together. They make food for the ancestral service early on the day of Seol. The signature dish for Seol is tteokguk. Slices of long white rick cake are boiled in meat-brewed gravy. In Korea, people think they get another year older by eating tteokguk. Besides, family members huddle together to make dishes such as assortment of hangwa (‘Korean traditional confectionery’), jeon (‘Korean pancake’), sikhye (‘sweet rice drink’), sujeonggwa (‘persimmon punch with cinnamon’), and seasoned herbs.

On the morning of Seol, all in the family, now dressed in seolbim, arrange the food prepared and give the ancestral service. Seolbim refers to the dress for Seol. After the ancestral service is finished, family members visit their ancestors’ tombs to pay homage.

Seol has a variety of plays to enjoy. Yut Nori, which is about moving tokens (called mal) on a board by casting four wooden yut-sticks, is a representative folk game which all in the family can enjoy. Other major folk plays enjoyed on Seol include Neolttwigi, which has two persons jump into the air from each end of the long plank seesawing over a bale of paddy straws or a straw bag, and jegichagi, a Korean traditional outdoor game in which players kick a jegi, made with a coin or iron stick wrapped with sturdy paper or cloth, into the air and attempt to keep it aloft.

Those who want to feel the traditional culture around Seol in Korea may want to visit Folk Village in Yongin, either of the Hanok Villages in Seoul and Jeonju, or Hahoe Village in Andong.

Lee Hyun Woo  leehw@agrinet.co.kr

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