Osechi Ryori And Other New Years Traditions

I know… for most westerners, the New Year’s Day has already come and gone. However, for those people who follow the lunar calendar, it’s just approaching. This year lunar new year falls on February 10. We call it “Seul-Nal” (though, wikipedia tells me that it is spelled “Seoullal”). Regardless, Korean people celebrate Lunar New Year by spending time with family and eating dduk-gook… or rice cake soup. The Lunar New Year is also celebrated with folk games, dressing in traditional attire and paying our respects to our elders. Jjul (or bowing) is a ritual that is often performed by the younger family members to the elders. I always remember Lunar New Year as being a blend of tradition and fun. Growing up as one of the only ethnic families in my area, I was inundated with American culture, but I did find a fascination with this other part of me… the being Korean part. My mom would pull out these little boxes with Korean games, and I have this distinct memory of these chalky candies that a relative brought us once… and most of all? Staying up late to play games, eat good food, and laugh with my family. All good memories.

Last year, I spent the Gregorian calendar new year (January 1) with my uncle’s family. My aunt, who grew up in Japan, presented us with these beautiful little boxes filled with curious little nibbles. My aunt has an incredible eye for beauty and a great passion for food, so you can imagine exactly how beautiful and delicious these little bites were. I regrettably don’t have pictures. However, I was introduced to an entirely new world of New Year’s traditions… osechi ryori. Osechi ryori refer to special foods served on New Year’s Day in Japanese culture. Now, it turns out the Japanese follow the Gregorian calendar, so my little spiel about osechi ryori is a bit overdue. However, I did think it was a beautiful idea. Each of the foods served represent something for the New Year… the roe symbolizes fertility and the burdock symbolizes long roots and stability. There are many, many other meanings and beautiful symbolizations, but my take away? New Years traditions, no matter what culture or origin are beautiful.

The New Year means hope. To me, hope is the most beautiful of all human emotion because it holds such great strength. Hope carries all that is good in our lives and propels us forward. I think it may be the most universal of emotions, especially at the start of each New Year.

It may be a bit late for Gregorian calendar followers and a bit early for Lunar Calendar followers… but I wish you a Happy HAPPY New Year. I hope that your year is filled with hope, joy, new beginnings, and love.

Are you celebrating Lunar New Year? What are you New Year’s tradition, Gregorian or Lunar calendar?


And for those scholars and curious individuals, some reading:

More on Korean New Years:

More on Japanese New Years:

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