Seollal 설날 // The Most Important Day of the Year in South Korea

A Beginner’s Guide To Seollal

Seollal

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 21 to 23 January, 2023
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.

Seollal || The Origins

Seollal || How is it Celebrated?

Seollal || Dates

Seollal || Complete Vocabulary List

Seollal || Bonus

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:

Hanbok
  • 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 - Food

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

Of course drinking alcohol is widely accepted too!

  • 떡국 Tteokguk
  • 전 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 (윷).

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
2023From 21 to 23 JanuarySaturday – MondaySeollal
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 / Seollal설날seollal
Happy new year새해 복 많이 받으세요saehae bok manhi badeuseyo
Happy new year (to use with friends and family)새해 복 많이 받아saehae bok manhi bada
Family가족kajok
Hanbok한복hanbok
Sebae세배sebae
Public holiday공휴일gonghyuil
Lunar calendar음력eumlyeog
Event행사 haengsa
Public activities공공 활동gong-gong hwaldong
Sebaetdon ( money that elders give to children)세뱃돈Sebaetdon
Charye차레charye
Memorial to ancestors제사 jesa
Food음식eumsig
Rice cake soup떡국tteokguk 
Korean pancakejeon 
Japchae잡채japchae 
Korean ravioli만두Mandu 
Galbijjim갈비찜galbijjim
Sihkye식혜Sihkye
Korean traditional cookies한과hangwa
Traditional games전통놀이jeontongnol-i
Yutnori 윷놀이yutnori
Jegi-chagi제기차기jegichagi
Pitch-pot투호tuho
Go-stop고스톱goseutop
Nolttwigi 놀뛰기nolttwigi 
Parades퍼레이드peoleideu
The twelve guardian animals십이지신Sib-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).

2023 marks the year of the rabbit!

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.


FAQ’s

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 Neaw 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 2022?

In 2022, it was celebrated from 31 January to 2 February.

When is Seollal in 2023?

In 2023, Seollal will be celebrated between 21 and 23 January.

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

Want More From LTL?

FANCY LEARNING KOREAN? Check out our online Korean courses here.

We offer a 7 day free trial to all online students where you can study Korean 24/7.

Want to study Korean in Korea instead? Our Korean courses in Seoul can either be taken in small groups of no more than 5 students or individually for a more tailored experience.

We even offer incredible homestay experiences in Seoul too.

To top it all off, it certainly doesn’t just end with Korean, in fact we also teach: 

Come and be a part of our amazing community.

I'm Interested In:
.
Ask us a question!
  • LTL Avatar Irene Magnosi
    Irene Magnosi , Irene Magnosi

    Welcome to LTL Language School!

    How can I help you?