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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

New Year, Round 2

For those of you who had great aspirations of starting off 2012 right – you know, eat healthier, get fit, be nicer, get up before noon even if you start work at 3 – but have had trouble keeping your resolutions, you’re in luck! Here in Korea, you get two shots at a fresh start to a New Year, thanks to using both the Gregorian and Lunar calendars.

Since the Lunar and Gregorian calendars don’t exactly match up, the Lunar holiday dates tend to fluctuate, hence Easter happening any time in March or April. Lunar New Year, or 설날 (Seollal) is no exception. This year it falls on January 23rd, which is a Monday. Koreans take the days surrounding Seollal off, primarily as preparation and travel days.

Much like Chuseok, the feast of thanksgiving and paying homage to the ancestors held in Sept/Oct, Seollal is a time for families to gather together, usually at The Grandmother’s House, which is either in

Gyeonggu or Busan, according to the diaries of almost every young student I ever taught. (I always picture The Grandmother as a kindly old lady, with her graying hair tied up in a bun, a permanent smile on her wrinkled face, and an apron tied around her stooped, rounded frame. Kind of like the old 할모니 (halmony is ‘grandmother’ in Korean) who sells bondaegi and squid off that street cart in Shinae in the evenings, come to think of it.)


Marty wrote a thorough that article  explains all of the traditions and rituals that take place on Lunar New Years.

If you aren’t close enough to your Korean friends to get yourself invited to a family celebration, you can find lots of other ways to celebrate this changing of the year.

Plan ahead – Keep in mind that many people travel on the days surrounding Seollal, so the roads will be very busy, and the buses and trains booked well in advance. Don’t expect to turn up at the station and get a ticket, like you can most days.

Watch the sunrise at the beach – We in Ulsan are in a lucky position, as we are both south and east enough to catch some of the earliest rays of sunshine to hit the Eurasian continent on New Year’s morning. While this is a much bigger tradition for Koreans on the morning of January 1st, the sunrise is no less beautiful on Seollal morning – but Gangeolgot point, or Jinha beach (the two most popular locations) will be less crowded.


Take advantage of the lack of crowds – While many businesses and tourist attractions will be closed for the day of Seollal, some remain open, but mostly empty. This is definitely the best day to hit the ski slopes around Korea, though it is becoming busier each year as younger Koreans take a pass on the traditions of old. Wherever you plan to go, call ahead (either the site, or Korean tourist information) to make sure it’ll be open. Some places, such as Ulsan Grand Park, will often put out some of the toys for games traditionally played on Seollal, like that standing see-saw where you have to jump, or the “throw the arrows into the kimchi pot” game. These are free for people to try out.










Eat some traditional Seollal food – As Marty explains in his article, there is often a meaning behind the type of food eaten for Seollal. The women of a Korean family usually spend the entire day before cooking and preparing the food, not only for the family, but also for the Je Sa rites for their ancestors. Common New Year food includes ddeokguk (rice cake soup), galbijim (braised short ribs), japchae (glass noodles with thinly sliced veggies), and pajeon (savoury pancakes with green onions).

Discover what the Year of the Dragon means to you – Check out your Eastern Zodiac reading for 2012, and see how the Year of the Water Dragon, or Black Dragon, will affect your fortunes. Apparently, this will be an energetic year, after the peaceful Year of the Rabbit (apparently this zodiac doesn’t apply to Arabic regions…). It’s a good year to get married, have children or start a business, and Dragon years bring good fortune and happiness (according to this site).

Restart your New Year’s Resolutions – Here’s your chance, if you’ve been less-than-successful in keeping your resolutions so far. The days are getting brighter, the temperatures will begin to rise, and it might not be as much of a challenge to get to the gym, or go out for a run as it was in the cold, dark of January.


However you chose to celebrate Seollal, here’s hoping the Year of the Water Dragon is a good one for all of us!