Lunar New Year – a Korean national holiday that affords a chance to prepare for the New Year (again), relax with a few days off of work, and celebrate turning a year older. Yes, in addition to the bowing to grandparents, eating of tteok guk, and wearing of hanboks, Koreans also turn a year older on New Year’s (lunar or solar, depending on who you ask) after eating a special soup. This means that as of this week I am now (drum roll please) twenty-four! (How is this possible, you may ask, seeing as I was born in July of 1988? Well, not only do you turn older on the new year and not on your birthday, but Koreans are already one year old at birth, making it possible for me to have aged two years since my arrival in Seoul.)
We spent the week before Sul-Nal discussing the year of the rabbit and all of these traditions in kindergarten, but I must say, I did a lot more learning than teaching that week (I still don’t completely understand why they expect the foreign teachers to teach our Korean students about their own culture). Finally after learning all about Korean New Year traditions, the kids showed us waygooks just how to celebrate the New Year at the Sul-Nal event on Monday when they came to school in their hanboks (traditional Korean dress), played games like yut nori and jae gi, learned how to bow, and ate rice cake soup.
As for my celebration of Sul-Nal, I didn’t don a hanbok or bow to my grandparents, but I did have a very relaxing break here in Seoul. My staycation mainly consisted of reading books, watching movies, and eating good food with Allison, but we did take breaks from our sloth and gluttony with visits to Changdeokgung Palace, a traditional tea-house in Insadong, and a piercing parlor in Apgujeong. Mellow, yes, but just what I needed.