The next stop on our global holiday tour takes us to South Korea, home to many holiday traditions, including Dongji, Christmas, and Seollal.
Dongji (Winter Solstice) usually falls on December 21st or 22nd and is a celebration of the longest night of the year and the expectation of the incoming Spring. South Koreans celebrate Dongji by gifting calendars and eating patjuk, a red bean porridge that symbolizes the beginning of a new year. Patjuk is a time-honored winter meal, and its red color is believed to ward off harmful spirits. As observed in the old saying, those who eat it grow older by a year: “Without eating Dongji red bean porridge, one cannot turn a year older.” The weather on Dongji is also indicative of the harvest to come.
As 30% of the population is Christian, South Korea is the only East Asian country that recognizes Christmas as a national holiday, known as Sung Tan Jul. The country celebrates Sung Tan Jul similarly to western Christmas, with decorations, family time, and occasionally gifts. South Korea’s version of Santa Claus, known as Santa Haraboji (Grandpa Santa), usually dons a blue or green suit and a traditional Korean hat called a gat.
Finally, Seollal is the Korean Lunar New Year, marking the first day of the Korean Lunar calendar. Falling on February 1st in 2022, Seollal is a time to pay respect to elders by performing Sebae, a traditional bowing ceremony. People also use Seollal to exchange well-wishes, enjoy Tteokguk (a traditional Korean soup with sliced rice cakes), and play folk games like Yut Nori and Neolttwigi. There is also a ceremony, known as Charye, practiced in a Sadang (traditional shrine) and serves as a memorial to ancestors.
Do you have favorite traditions from your homeland you would like to share? We would love to hear about them in the comments.