Seollal 설날 // Korean New Year Explained (2024)

A Beginner’s Guide To Korean New Year

If you are interested in Korean culture, you must have already heard about Seollal 설날 as it’s by far the most significant holiday in South Korea.

The date of Seollal will change every year because it follows the Lunar Calendar.

설날 is a family day. Everybody comes home and spends time together eating, partaking in rituals and much more…

Korean Lunar New Year Dates:

From 9 to 11 February 2024
From 28 to 30 January, 2025
From 16 to 18 February 2026

Want to see something in particular? Go directly to the point you are interested in.

Korean New Year – Seollal || The Origins

Korean New Year – Seollal || How is it Celebrated?

Korean New Year – Seollal || Dates

Korean New Year – Seollal || Complete Vocabulary List

Korean New Year – Seollal || Bonus

Korean New Year – Seollal || FAQ’s

Let’s go!

The Origins of Seollal | Brief Introduction

Researchers are not sure how long Koreans have been celebrating Seollal. Many say that Seollal rituals date back to the 6th century.

It was during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient Korea that the lunar calendar was first adopted.

At that time, Seollal (also called Seol by some) was one of nine important festivals dedicated to ancestral ceremonies.

Today, the remembrance of ancestors remains a common element of Korean New Year celebrations.

Want to know more about Korean holidays? Check out our quick introduction to Korean Holidays and our dedicated page with a full list of dates of all the Korean national holidays.

An Introduction to Public Holidays in South Korea Thumbnail

An Introduction to Public Holidays in South Korea

There are 11 public holidays in South Korea. Chuseok, Seollal, Children’s Day… Find out what these days are all about and celebrate with friends.

How is Seollal Celebrated?

As is with Chuseok, Korean New Year is a day to celebrate with the family. Koreans typically return to their hometowns.

TOP TIP | This is why it is important to book train or plane tickets home in advance. Moreover, there are a lot of traffic jams on the eve of the Seollal, as many Koreans make the trip on this day.

On this day, Koreans perform ancestral rites and wear the hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), eat delicious food, and play traditional games.

Customs and Traditions

There are a few traditions and customs. Here are some examples of traditions and customs that Korean do during this Korean New Year:

Seollal Korean New Year
  • Memorial to ancestors or 차례 Charye: as with Chuseok, this ceremony takes place in the family home. Koreans prepare traditional dishes. The food is presented on a table behind which are the family’s ancestral tablets, before which Koreans kneel to pay homage to those who came before them.
  • 세배 Sebae: another important ritual of the day. 세배 consists of paying homage to one’s elders by bowing on the first day of the year.
  • 세뱃돈 Sebaeton: after the Sebae, the elders send their best wishes to the younger ones and give them a pouch containing money.
  • 한복 Hanbok: During Seollal, Koreans wear Hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing.

Food

Many Koreans can tell you that during the Korean New Year they eat a lot. Eating is an important part of the holiday and Koreans take the preparation of food very seriously.

Seollal Korean New Year

Below is a list of the most popular dishes eaten during Seollal!

Of course drinking alcohol is widely accepted too!

  • 떡국 Tteokguk
  • Jeon
  • 갈비찜 Galbijjim
  • 잡채 Japchae
  • 한과 Hangwa
  • 만두 Mandu
  • 식혜 Sihkye
The Best Korean Food 🇰🇷 The Top 10 Korean Dishes for New Eaters to Try Out Thumbnail

The Best Korean Food 🇰🇷 The Top 10 Korean Dishes for New Eaters to Try Out

There’s LOTS of various dishes in the Korean gastronomy. It might be hard to know what to try out first, so we selected the best Korean food for you to try.

Games played during Seollal

During Seollal, Koreans play a lot of games, but the most famous is Yutnori 윷놀이 .

This board game is played between two teams and requires four special sticks called yut .

These sticks (which are used like dice) are curved on one side and flat on the other. The teams take turns throwing the sticks in the air.
The players move their pieces according to how the sticks fall back down.

Another game that Koreans like to play is Nolttwigi 널뛰기 .

Players stand at either end of the seesaw facing each other. One or two other people sit in the middle to secure the seesaw.

The first player jumps to propel the second into the air. The aim of the game is to get higher and higher in a continuous rhythm. Women love this game.

There are many other games, for example Go-Stop 고스톱 (goseutop), 투호 (tuho) and 제기차기 (jegi-chagi)…

Dates

The precise dates on which Seollal falls vary from year to year and the celebration lasts for three days.

As in other cultures, Koreans begin the festivities on Seollal’s Eve. They continue the festivities through to the following day after Seollal.

YearsDateDaysHoliday
2024From 9 to 11 FebruaryFriday – SundaySeollal
2025From 28 to 30 JanuaryTuesday – ThursdaySeollal
2026From 16 to 18 FebruaryMonday – WednesdaySeollal

Complete Vocabulary List

EnglishKoreanTransliteration
Korean New Year / Seollal 설날 seollal
Happy new year 새해 복 많이 받으세요 saehae bok manhi badeuseyo
Happy new year (to use with friends and family) 새해 복 많이 받아 saehae bok manhi bada
Family 가족 kajok
Hanbok 한복 hanbok
Sebae 세배 sebae
Public holiday 공휴일 gonghyuil
Lunar calendar 음력 eumlyeog
Event 행사 haengsa
Public activities 공공 활동 gong-gong hwaldong
Sebaetdon ( money that elders give to children) 세뱃돈 Sebaetdon
Charye 차레 charye
Memorial to ancestors 제사 jesa
Food 음식 eumsig
Rice cake soup 떡국 tteokguk 
Korean pancake jeon 
Japchae 잡채 japchae 
Korean ravioli 만두 Mandu 
Galbijjim 갈비찜 galbijjim
Sihkye 식혜 Sihkye
Korean traditional cookies 한과 hangwa
Traditional games 전통놀이 jeontongnol-i
Yutnori  윷놀이 yutnori
Jegi-chagi 제기차기 jegichagi
Pitch-pot 투호 tuho
Go-stop 고스톱 goseutop
Nolttwigi  놀뛰기 nolttwigi 
Parades 퍼레이드 peoleideu
The twelve guardian animals 십이지신 Sib-i-ji-sin

Bonus || Zodiac Signs

Korean astrology, based on the lunar calendar, is composed of 12 animals of the zodiac.

Each new lunar year is therefore represented by one of the following 12 animals:

Please note that if you were born in January or early February, it’s possible that the Lunar New Year has not yet passed in your birth year, in which case you were born under the sign of the previous year.

For example, I was born in January 2001 (year of the snake). That year, Seollal was on January 24, 2001. As I was born on January 5, my sign is the dragon (year 2000).

2024 marks the year of the dragon!

What about you? Tell us in the comments what your Korean zodiac sign is!

170+ Animals in Korean 🐙 The Ultimate Guide for All The Animals! Thumbnail

170+ Animals in Korean 🐙 The Ultimate Guide for All The Animals!

From Cat to Butterfly, Koala, Crocodile and Sparrow, find out the names of 170+ animals in Korean in this fantastic vocabulary guide. PLUS flashcards!

There it is, your complete guide to Seollal! Now you know everything about the Korean New Year.


Seollal || FAQs

What are the origins of Seollal?

Researchers are not sure how long Koreans have been celebrating Seollal. Many say that Seollal rituals date back to the 6th century.

It was during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient Korea that the lunar calendar was first adopted.

At that time, Seollal (also called Seol by some) was one of nine important festivals dedicated to ancestral ceremonies.

Today, the remembrance of ancestors remains a common element of Korean New Year celebrations.

Is Seollal and Chuseok the same?

They aren’t the same but both hold equal importance.

Seollal is the Korean New Year typically celebrated around January/February time and Chuseok is Mid-Autumn Festival which falls around mid-September.

Both holidays are 3 days long.

Is Seollal and Chinese New Year the same?

Essentially yes.

Both celebrate the lunar new year and are therefore celebrated at the same time, although the date each year does vary.

How do Koreans celebrate Seollal?

As with Chuseok, Seollal is a day to celebrate with the family. Typically Koreans return to their hometowns.

This is why it is important to book train or plane tickets home in advance.

Moreover, there are a lot of traffic jams, as many Koreans make the trip on this day.

On this day, Koreans perform ancestral rites and wear the hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), eat delicious food, and play traditional games.

When did Seollal fall in 2023?

In 2023, it was celebrated between 21 and 23 January.

When is Seollal in 2024?

In 2024, Seollal will be celebrated from February 9th to 11th 2024

What do Koreans eat during Seollal?

Many Koreans can tell you that during the Korean New Year, they eat a lot. Eating is an important part of the holiday and Koreans take the preparation of food very seriously.

Below is a list of the most popular dishes! (In bonus you have a drink!).

-떡국 Tteokguk

-전 Jeon

-갈비찜 Galbijjim

-잡채 Japchae

-한과 Hangwa

-만두 Mandu

-식혜 Sihkye

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