Dear MEL Topic Readers,
In South Korea, age is measured in bowls of soup
February 16th was Korea’s first day of the lunar calendar. It is called Seollal, one of the most celebrated holidays in Korea, which lasts for three days. It is not only a time for paying respect to ancestors but also an important opportunity for Koreans to catch up with family members. Those who are away from home travel back to see their family. Those who welcome them prepare a variety of traditional foods. Together, they all pay respect to their ancestors, exchange gifts, and enjoy special dishes to celebrate the new year. Yes, Seollal is a great occasion especially for kids, but it is very costly for parents and grandparents.
The main dish of the day is tteokguk, a traditional soup made with sliced rice cakes with ingredients like beef, pork or seaweeds, and egg and vegetables. It seems quite simple to make this traditional soup dish, but it requires cooperative work by men and women to pound glutinous rice flour and water into the dough for the rice cake. What is special about eating tteokguk on New Year’s Day is that it adds a year to one’s age. Everyone gets a year older at the same time. Indeed, Korean society is very communal.
It seems that Koreans were very busy during Seollal this year hosting guests from all over the world to the Olympic games while celebrating the new year.
Enjoy reading and learning what this new year tradition means to Korean people.