Seollal (Lunar New Year; first day of the lunar calendar) is one of the most celebrated national holidays in Korea. While many observe Sinjeong (Solar New Year; January 1 of the Gregorian/Western calendar), most Koreans celebrate Seollal, which usually lasts for three days (the day of, the day before, and the day after). This year, Seollal falls on February 16 of the Gregorian calendar.
In China, it is called “chun jie.” In Vietnam, it is known as “Tet.” And in Korea, it is “Seollal.”
While the names may be different, these and other countries mark the coming year with many similar activities: family reunions, festivals, cleaning and organizing the home, the color red, and — of course — traditional foods.
No Korean New Year celebration is complete without tteokguk, or rice cake soup.
Eating a bowl of it is said to bring a person a long life. Eating tteokhuk also represents growing another year older. In fact, Koreans may ask a person their age by saying “how many bowls of tteokguk have you eaten?” The soup includes broth, vegetables and thin, round pieces of rice cake.
There are many reasons to eat rice cake soup in the new year. First of all, it means to pray for longevity by eating long white rice cakes and to spend bright year. In addition, the sliced rice cake is similar to a coin look, so it is filled with the hope that goods will be abundant for one year.