Seollal: A Korean Holiday and My Myeonuri Duties

by My Onni You

Check out how we celebrate Seollal, a Korean holiday, know my myeonuri duties and learn the customs and what to expect during this kind of holiday.

What is Seollal?

Seollal (설날)  or Korean Lunar New Year is the most important traditional Korean holiday. This holiday is usually the Chinese New Year for other countries like the Philippines and China. Seollal is a holiday that lasts for three days. The family gathers all together and the women are the ones in charge in the kitchen to prepare the foods.

Usually, the Seollal occurs during January or February and this year it will be celebrated on the 24th to 26th.

Meaning of Seollal

Seol (설) means the beginning of the year and it’s the day to pray for the well-being and good health for the rest of the whole year.

Customs during Seollal

1. Koreans dress up in colorful traditional Korean clothing called hanbok.
2. During the first morning, Koreans pay their respect towards their ancestors.
3. Charye (차례를 지내다) or Memorial Service for Ancestors  – traditional foods are placed on a table as an offering to the ancestors, and a rite begins with deep bows from all family members.
4. Sebae (세배) – this is really observed during Seollal because it is a ritual of filial piety where children wish the elders (grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles) a happy new year and giving them a deep bow and says “Saehae bok mani badeuseyo” (새해 복 많이 받으세요) or “Please receive a lot of good fortune for the New Year” in English.
5. The elders usually reward the children a new year’s money or sebaet don (세뱃돈).
6. Aside from receiving a new year’s money or sebaet don (세뱃돈), elders also offer words of wisdom deokdam (덕담).

What to eat during Seollal?

tteokguk

In Korea, during holidays they have special foods to eat like in Chuseok they have the Songpyeon or the half-moon shaped rice cake. While in Seollal, Koreans eat tteokguk (떡국) or soup with sliced rice cakes. When you eat or finish one bowl of this dish it means you are one year older. So if you will visit a Korean family during Seollal do not eat two or more bowls because it means you’ll be much older.  (hahaha)

What to expect during Seollal?

1. Bus stations, trains, and subways are crowded
2. Traffic jam
3. Fruits are really expensive
4. Seollal gifts are everywhere
5. Preparing and sending gifts to family members

Seollal: A Korean Holiday and My Myeonuri Duties

I first came to Korea in 2016 but I arrived in the first week of April so my first experience of Seollal here was in 2017. My son was just 1 year old so I was not obliged to help with the cooking but I was there to watched and learn. I only washed the dishes in my first year and it’s not that hard for me since I love washing the dishes. But doing it for 3 days and 3 to 5 times a day was very tiring. I also need to bow and greet those family members who came and visit.

In 2018, it was the year I started helping my mother in law during holidays. The task being assigned to me is frying all the jeons or cakes and others. At first, it was very hard since you have to be careful not to burn the fried foods. Aside from that, you have to cook it pretty well as you need to have that talent in the best presentation.

This year, I’ll be turning four years here in Korea and I can say that I have mastered the frying task. But have you been wondering why do I need to help my mother in law? I have my sisters-in-law honestly, but I’m still the one that they need to help. The reason is my husband is the eldest son and that means I am the eldest daughter in law.

Lastly and the important thing, it is one of my duties to help my mother in law since my husband is the eldest son. My husband and I will be the one who will continue the tradition when they are gone and pass it through to our son later on.

Tips for a Newbie Myeonuri

girl washing dishes

[Photo from aigooyobo]

If you are a newbie myeonuri, I know you’ll feel very nervous and wishing to disappear or be sick on that day. But don’t make it too hard for yourself. Just think of it as one of the bad days and it will be better the next day. You’ll survive it too like me.

1. Be polite to everyone (even to the most annoying family member of your husband).
2. Keep smiling no matter how tired you are.
3. Do not fight with your husband for not helping because it’s a Korean tradition.
4. After the tiring days, you can gift yourself a reward like having a massage, take a rest or go shopping.

For other Korean holidays, read Things to Know About Chuseok, A Korean Holiday

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10 comments

may palacpac January 24, 2020 - 2:36 pm

Hmm…this is my first glimpse of how it is in Korea on New Year. Parang Chinese din pala, nagbibigay ng money.

Reply
myonniyou January 26, 2020 - 10:38 pm

Yes, and after 4 years ngayon lang ako nakatanggap ng cash 😀

Reply
Christian Foremost January 25, 2020 - 5:43 pm

This is fascinating. Definitely the first time I’m hearing about this. Thanks for sharing with us how u spend CNY there in korea. For our family, we just eat tikoy and that’s it. Hahahaa

Reply
myonniyou January 26, 2020 - 10:38 pm

Yes madami din activities during the holidays, may mga traditional games din usually. Though sa family ng asawa ko hindi nila prefer yung ganung activities so either magcamping kami or fishing at sledding since winter.

Reply
Karla January 26, 2020 - 9:53 pm

Di ko talaga nagustuhan yung 떡국 hahaha! Mas lalong di ko gusto yung mga Koreans na di tumutulong sa asawa. Seollal is my next favorite holiday besides Chuseok! 🙂

Reply
myonniyou January 26, 2020 - 10:37 pm

This time medyo nagiging equal na. Tumutulong na din sila sa paghahanda.
So later on medyo mas magiging mas magaan na yung work.
Sulit naman yung pagod ko naka 200k won din ako 😀

Reply
Rad January 27, 2020 - 11:44 am

Yeah, parang Chinese New Year lang din pala. Pinagkaiba lang halos ay yung dress code at type ng food. 🙂

Reply
WanderWoMom January 29, 2020 - 11:20 pm

nakakatuwa momsh i love stories like this. parang Kdrama in real life. hehe! Great to know na medyo iba na din ngayon and nag help out na lahat.

Reply
myonniyou January 30, 2020 - 2:54 pm

Oo. Nag eevolve na din ung culture.

Reply
Danica Marasigan February 16, 2020 - 1:59 am

First to hear of this festival. Nakakapagod talaga that you mentioned you’d be wanting a massage after? Haha. Anyway, I like the giving of money part. Parang ito na yung reward mo after a long tiring day eh. Haha

Reply

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