Celebrating CNY in Korea

This year is my first time to spend Chinese New Year away from family in Malaysia. 终于尝到了留学生在农历新年期间身处国外的感受。Frankly, the feeling is not that bad. Feeling kinda liberated from all the hustle-bustle going on back in Malaysia. Don't have to do anything special, or put on any face to please anyone. I can enjoy my holiday in peace and quiet, sleeping till the sun comes up. Don't even need to buy any new clothes if I don't want to. But I guess this gonna be the first and last time I get to spend CNY this way.

I guess many people might be interested to know... Do Koreans celebrate CNY? How do they celebrate it? The answer is: yes and no. CNY in Korea, or the Korean New Year 설날 (seollal), is like a non-event, compared to us Malaysian Chinese. Sure, there is the obligatory family reunion breakfast/ lunch, visiting relatives, giving money packets to children, and the Seoul-Busan highway jam, but the similarity kinda stops there. 

This is because in Korea most people celebrate the start of the New Year on January 1st, and seollal is treated more like a cultural family affair than a celebration to herald in the new year. There are no cheerful CNY songs blasting everywhere, no red and gold bling decorations everywhere, nobody goes out to shop for new CNY clothes, nobody makes and sells CNY cookies and biscuits, no restaurants booked full for reunion dinner. What they have is only 2-3 days of holiday, peace and quiet. During seollal, the Koreans visit their ancestral homes or the house of the first uncle. All the wives in the extended family will gather together to cook the big meal, which is usually the big breakfast held after the "praying to the ancestors' ritual" 제사 (che sa). I had the chance to try some special seollal meal which consisted of fried food like shark meat, big octopus meat (the special ones!), shrimp, and red potato. Also another type of special seollal food is rice cakes in soup 떡국 (tteokguk) which I haven't tried yet but seriously doubt its taste. :P 

Ah... so as a conclusion, the Korean New Year is of a much low-key affair compared to what we have. That's why we Malaysian Chinese here in Korea are always complaining how we don't feel any "CNY mood" here. Luckily for us, some of my friends here made a grand housewarming/ CNY reunion dinner on 年29! 

This is all the food for the reunion dinner.. mixed vege, mushroom chicken, deep fried shrimp, tomato beef stew, ginger spring onion fish, deep fried crabsticks! It's not food comparable to what our moms make but we made it ourselves so YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!! Hehe...  

And all of us gathered at Sarah's house to eat the grand meal. With some other international friends like Korean, Japanese, Papua New Guinea, Mongolian, African... etc. And after the dinner it was what Chinese do best... the gambling den :P

The Korean greeting for the New Year is: 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (seh heh puk mani paduseyo) which translates as "May the New Year bring you much Prosperity".

So... 새해 복 많이 받으세요!!!
Happy CNY!!! and Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!


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