Korean New Year is traditionally a really important day in the Korean Lunar calendar, with most people spending the 3 day celebration with their family. I’ve experienced a couple of Korean New Year’s over the past few years, and almost everything in the city is closed, but there is still a lot for you to do if you’re in Seoul on Korean New Year.
One of the best ways to spend Seollal is to get involved with the many traditional celebrations happening around the city. One of the best places to get a hands-on experience of the traditional aspects of Korean New Year is at Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골 한옥마을).
Namsangol Hanok Village is located conveniently right outside Chungmuro subway station (line 4 & 3) and at the base of Namsan Mountain.
Entry to the celebrations is free, and while you’re there you can learn about, and participate in a lot of different cultural activities such as Charye (a memorial ritual for ancestors) and the making and slicing Garatteok (a type of rice cake).
You can dress up in traditional clothing called a Hanbok, try learning and singing some folk songs or some dancing, as well as playing traditional games and musical instruments. There are also lots of performances on a big stage to enjoy.
Some of the traditional games I really enjoyed playing at the Namsnangol Hanok Village were:
Yutnori – a game where you use wooden sticks to play.
Jegichagi – you make an object using a small metal ring, then wrap it with strips of paper, then kick it in the air similar to footbag.
Neoltwiggi – a see saw that you and another player stands on each end and take turns to jump high in the air (a lot harder to get the timing than it looks)
There is such a nice and festive atmosphere at Namsangol Hanok Village during Seollal, it’s a great way to see the beautiful buildings and gardens of the Hanok Village as well as experiencing some traditional culture, for free – from there you can also hike up Namsan for a great view of Seoul!