Chinese and Koreans have historically used animals to mark each New Year. There are twelve of them: rat, oz, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. There are many fairy tales that provide an explanation for the history of the twelve zodiac signs. One traditional story states that Buddha needed twelve guards to protect his palace. He held a race for the positions and the first twelve to arrive at his palace became not only his guards but also members of the zodiac.
Although Korea and China have very similar history and culture, they have different ways of celebrating the New Year. In China, we call the Lunar New Year the Spring Festival. Every year on this day, Chinese families gather together and have a sumptuous dinner, “Nianyefan," which means “New Year night dinner." Dumplings play the leading role in Nianyefan. The Chinese usually put a couple of coins into the dumplings. Those who eat the dumplings with coins will receive better luck that year. This tradition originated from a story about a monster, named “Xi”, who was scared of the color red, and was defeated on the day of the Spring Festival. That is why the Spring Festival in Chinese translates to “ChuXi”, which means killing the monster “Xi." This is also why Chinese write lucky words and wishes on red paper and hang them outside to bring good luck. And for the finale, they set off fireworks as part of the celebration and to drive away bad luck.
The Korean New Year is the first day of the Korean Lunar calendar. This day the most significant family holiday. Everyone visits their hometown and gather with families. Koreans dress up in colorful traditional clothing called hanbok to show their respect. All the ladies in the family prepare traditional food like Tteokguk, soup with sliced rice cakes and dumplings. Everyone eats and gains a year. So, Korean New Year is not only the beginning of a year but everyone's birthday! After a big feast with family, people perform sebae. Children wish their elders like their grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles a Happy New Year by performing a traditional bow while chanting, “Please receive lots of luck in the New Year”. Then the elders reward the young ones by giving them money.
Tteokguk, Korean rice cake soup
Even though Chinese and Korean celebrate the Lunar New Year in different ways, both cultures consider this a sacred traditional day of new beginnings.
- Yimei & Eung Jung _