Solnal - New Years Day celebration

South Korea

Figure 1: ESRI, EarthSat, AND



   Solnal is South Korea 's New Year's celebration and is one the biggest holidays of the year. The Solnal celebration fosters to communitas. It is also a day for family to reunite and to begin a new year together. The main focus during this celebration is family. During Solnal children bow to their elders and show appreciation to them for everything they have done throughout their lives. This also demonstrates the roles of family and religion and how they both are influenced by each other. The economy and gender roles are also incorporated into the Solnal tradition. These ritual rites and ceremonies are performed to ensure a prosperous, harmonious life for all who celebrate Solnal.



Figure 2: This is a type of traditional Korean clothing that everyone wears. It is called hanbok and consists of five colors: red, white, blue, yellow and green. These five colors are called sol-bim. Figure 3: This is bulgogi, which is the festive national dish of Korea. It is strips of lean beef marinated in soy sauce with ginger, garlic, and scallions.


         Even though the Korean culture contains a unique set of traditions and values, it shares many similar traditions with the United States . For example, Koreans take part in New Years Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations (Diversity Calendar). Both countries recognize the importance of friends, family, and loved-ones during holiday celebrations. The most important celebration in South Korea is New Year's Day which is called Solnal. Traditionally, Solnal is celebrated during a fifteen day period, but typically it lasts for three days. During these three days, several customs and events take place (Life in Korea ). “Say-hay Boke Mahn-he pah-du-say-oh” is the New Year's greeting, which means “Many New Year's blessing to you” (Diversity Resource). Solnal is a time to reflect on traditional customs, and during this time, Koreans have traditions on how to integrate their family values and morals. Korean's religion, politics, economy, gender roles, and the worship of ancestors all influence the celebration of Solnal.


Context of South Korea

  South Korea is located on the southern part of the Korean Peninsula in Eastern Asia . The Korean peninsula extends about 620 miles south of the Eurasian landmass between Soviet Siberia and Chinese Manchuria (Ember). South Korea is directly below North Korea with the Yellow Sea located to its west. Korea is a mountainous country (i.e., only twenty percent of the land is flat). The costal plains make up only fifteen percent of the land area. South Korea 's largest four rivers are the Han, whichs flows to the Yellow Sea , Kum, Naktong, and Somjin (Ember). The climate of South Korea consists of dry cold winters and hot humid summers. Between June and September is when the most rainfall occurs, and there is at least one typhoon each year. The temperature in Seoul ( Korea 's capital) can range from 16 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 72 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer (Altapedia).

  South Korea is historically known as “the Land of the Morning Calm”. Before the Christian era, Korea was ruled by the Chinese for many centuries. Korea was occupied by Japan from 1910 to 1945. After World War II, North and South Korea could not reach an agreement, which led to the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. With help from the United States and the United Nations multinational forces, North Korea dominated South Korea and maintained its independence from communist rule. However, the argument is still a current problem, which deals with the South Korea 's National Security System (NSL) that protects the country of communist infiltration and influences (Times change, so why not laws?). In conclusion, North and South Korea continue to have some disagreements, and their border is still guarded by armed troops (Gall).

  The work ethic in Korea is more extreme than in America . Koreans work extremely long work weeks, averaging about 55 hours. This a sharp contrast to the typical American 40 hour work week, however, some Americans do work long hours. Even though Koreans work, on average, 15 hours more per week, many Korean families struggle economically. Long work weeks combined with low pay and high inflation have a negative impact on the financial stability of the typical Korean. Homeownership and consumer spending is low in Korea (Ember). Sixty percent of Koreans label themselves as “middle class” and eighty-three percent of those people have a college degree (Ember). In 1998, statistics showed that 48% of women worked outside of the home. When working in the same field, women earned sixty three cents for every dollar a man earned (Ember). This is an example of gender bias. Just because a female is capable of doing a “man's job” does not mean they should be paid less. Women do not receive the highest respect that they deserve. This type of situation shows an economical and sociological problem that needs to be resolved.

  Korea 's government can be described as a Republic system. South Korea 's Head of State is Roh Moo Hyun, and he has been in office since February 25, 2003 (World Almanac and Book of Facts). Just like in American, Korean government also operates with three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. However, there is no jury system. If the crime involves severe punishment, the case is arbitrated by three judges of a district or branch court. For all other cases, decision is delegated by one judge (Ember).

  Marriage is important in Korea . Marriage is looked upon as a rite of passage which symbolizes the transition to adulthood (Ember). When two individuals get married, it is important that the couple is able to carry on the family lineage. Most women marry during their twenties, and men marry in their mid-twenties. Marriage rates have increased over the years, however, divorce has tripled from 1980 to 1994 (Ember). In South Korea , women must take and keep the name of their husband even if they divorce or remarry. Women want to abolish this patriarchal marriage law, and they feel that the law is “outdated” and “does not reflect today's society” and promotes gender inequality (Off Our Backs). However, with the feminist groups pushing the system, women have won many battles against this patriarchal law.


Origins of Solnal

   The earliest documentation of the celebration Solnal dates back 4337 years ago during the Tan ‘gun era (Diversity Calendar). The celebration of Solnal has always represented a time for ritual cleansing and a time when bad spirits are to be chased away. During this celebration, families come together and prepare for the upcoming new year. The word Solnal is translated as, “Stepping on the spirit of the Earth”, and the word Solnal relates to the solar year. (Lunar New Year for Koreans).



   Solnal is a celebration that brings everyone together and is a time for renewal and preparation for the new year. During the morning hours of Solnal, Koreans dress in their best hanbok, which are traditional Korean clothes. Hanboks are multicolored (red, white, blue, yellow and green), and these colors are referred to as sol-bim (New Year's Day in Korea ).

  Food is an important aspect to the celebration. Throughout Sonal, Koreans eat bulgogi. Bulgogi is a popular Korean dish that includes strips of lean beef marinated in soy sauce with ginger, garlic, and scallions (Diversity Calendar). Koreans also eat duggook, which is a soup, consisting of rice dumplings ( Henderson : pp.416). Fried meat, fish, and dumplings are made for the celebration as well (Diversity Resources).

  During the celebration, there is a period of sang-myo. During sang-myo, children bow and pay respect to their elders and ancestors. This period is important to the elders because it implies that the children reaffirm the family ties. A ritual called Jishin Balpgi is also performed. During this ritual, loud drums and gongs are played to scare off evil spirits of the old year (Family Culture). Friend and family members dance along with the music and the beat of the drums.

  Children enjoy playing games during Solnal. Children enjoy flying kites. A traditional Korean kite is called a yon and consists of bamboo sticks and Korean paper. Kites might represent the ancestors who have passed away and are a symbolic representation of their spirits. Nol-Ttwigi is another game which is played. It is similar to see-saw, but it is more dangerous. Instead of sitting down and moving up and down like in see-saw, nol-ttwigi has two people stand on opposite ends of a platform and jump as hard as they can in order to send the other person up into the air. They do this over and over again to see how high they can get their partner to go. Yuk is a game that consists of four player or teams and four sticks. The player tosses the stick and the stick's placement on the board determines the next move. The first player or team that travels around the board quickest is the winner (Life in Korea ).







Prognosis for Solnal

   Solnal is still practiced today and is still a major part of Korean's culture. It would appear that since this tradition had been happening for so long, Koreans do not want this ritual of Sonal to be diminished. It is embedded into the Koreans culture that Sonal occurs each year and that it should continue to occur in the future.

  In today's world, some of the folk practices are in danger of being lost because of modern influences, western and otherwise. To preserve traditions, the government often sponsors folk performances and games in various locations around the holidays. In addition, government offices and most businesses are closed for national holidays.   During the 3-day holiday of Solnal, the majority of Korean businesses shut down except for public transportation (Hynix). Lunar New Year is one of the most important events of the year, and it is also the most important celebration of the year in many other Asian countries (Googlism).

  There is also a nonprofit organization called The Korean Center. The center was established by the Intercultural Institute of California in 1995, and continues to hold celebrations during Solnal.



   Solnal is a time to rejoice emotionally and psychologically with one another. If someone is paying respects to their elders or if a child is flying a kite, Solnal is a time for aspirations and unity . Solnal is a celebration that defines the meaning of a new start within a new year. This celebration emphasizes the importance of family. It also emphasizes a sense of bonding and the ability to appreciate each other's beliefs and values. It is a reflection of Korean's gender roles, economy, family, ancestors, elders, and religion. The most important aspect is the time and memories that are made. Solnal can be defined simply as a celebration of a new beginning, and Solnal continues to be an important tradition for Korea .


Internet References Cited


Peer-Reviewed References Cited

  • Dorson, Richard. Material Components in Celebration . 1982. pp. 33-56.


  • Ember, Carol and Melvin Ember. “ South Korea .” Countries and Their Cultures . Vol.2.
  • Gall, Timothy. “South Koreans.” Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life . Vol. 3. 1998.

  • Henderson, Helene and Sue Ellen Thompson. “Sol.” Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. Ed. 2. 1997. pp. 416.

  • Kim, Andrew. Korean Religious Culture and its Affinity to Christianity: The Rise of Protestant Christianity in South Korea . Sociology of Religion, Summer2000, Vol. 61 Issue 2, p117

  • Kim, Andrew. CHARACTERISTICS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN SOUTH KOREA : A SOCIOLOGICAL SURVEY. Review of Religious Research, Jun2002, Vol. 43 Issue 4, p291

  • MacDonald, Margaret. “ Korea .” The Folklore of World Holidays . 1992. pp. 52-54.

  • Shin, Chang-sik. Social Policy in South Korea Cultural and Structural Factors in the Emergence of Welfare Shaw, Ian. Social Policy & Administration, Aug2003, Vol. 37 Issue 4, p328

  • Smithsonian Institution. “Religious Celebrations.” Celebration: A World of Art and Rituals . 1982. pp. 159.

  • Turner, Victor. “Religious Celebrations.” Celebration Studies in Festivity and Ritual . 1982. pp. 201-219.


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