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Korean national celebrations


Seol Nal (January 1 by lunar calendar)

Upon waking early in the morning, first greet elder family members, starting with the eldest male family member, with the formal "Big Bow.” Next, they visit all relatives throughout the town, greeting them formally in the same order, starting with closer relatives, wishing them all "health and happiness through the year." After greeting all relatives, many may visit someone they respect, such as schoolteachers, town officials, and members of friends' families.

This type of greeting is everyone's moral duty on New Year's Day. When the young greet the elders, the elders give "bok don" (fortune money, a token of love) to the young. This is the traditional way of returning something back to the young people for sharing their appreciation to the elders for what the elders have done for them. It is not a large amount of money, sometimes only a few cents, but it is given with great feeling.

After greeting relatives and others that you respect, it is time to eat. All day long, people will fly kites or play "Jae Ki Chagi," kicking game played with an object made with a coin and rice paper (similar to "Hacky-Sack"). One of the interesting games that all the family can enjoy is "Yoot Nohl Ee.” A small log, measuring one inch in diameter and six to seven inches long, is cut in half, both through the width and length, so that you have four pieces with one side curved and one side flat. Then, taking turns, each person picks up the pieces and drops them on the floor, and each pattern they make has a different meaning.


Chung Wol Dae Bolum (lunar calendar) the first great full moon of the year)

On this day, parents will tell stories to their children. For example, they will tell their children to stay awake all night, or their eyebrows will turn white. During the evening, most of the townspeople play a kind of "war game." In Korea, most towns are near mountains, and the houses are built with the front door facing away from the mountains. On this day, each town builds a big fire right in front of the town. The wood for the fire is built up like a big bed and then set on fire. This is called "Mo Dak Bool." Because of the fires, all the towns are visible. Then all the participants each get a small can, punch many holes in it, and stuff it with many pieces of wood that are very easy to ignite and that will burn for a long time. This can is then attached to a long handle, and the can is swung round and round. All the young people in town do this, and it looks very beautiful from far away. Then each town will try to invade the other towns. When they meet in the middle, they "fight" and try to gather up their opponents’ fire cans, and go on to the next enemy town to take the fire from that town's fire and win the game.

This day teaches the children teamwork and to be responsible for their family, and that it is their duty to defend their family. It also teaches patience, by overcoming the difficulty of staying awake all night.


Choo Seok (lunar calendar)

Like the American Thanksgiving holiday, this day is a time of the first rice harvest. On the night before, people set out different types of food: fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, etc., pretending that it is for the departed souls of ancestors to eat. Then, at about 4 or 5 o'clock a.m. on the 15th, when the roosters cry, it is a signal for the departed souls to leave and for the family to get together and eat the same food that was set out for the ancestors. Everyone then rests for two to three hours, then wakes up, cleans up, and goes to visit their ancestors' cemetery. They first visit the fourth or fifth oldest generation, and then the more recent ones. Even though each ancestor still has an anniversary once a year, this is a very important holiday in Korea because the whole family can enjoy being together to honor their ancestors.

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