What to say on Seol(설)

What to say on Seol(설)

Seol (설; or 설날(Seollal)) is lunar New Year’s Day and one of the biggest national holidays in Korea. On that day, families gather, no matter what, despite bad weather or worse traffic jam. No wonder, it is quite awkward to lots of foreigners when 24/7 liten-up-Korea shuts all doors and stops all work.  It is a holiday for family and everywhere you go on Seol you say

새 해 복 많이 받으세요!
(Sae hae bok mah-ni ba-deu-se-yo!)

which means, ‘Happy new year!’, of course(remember it is new year, although it’s after the lunar calendar).
복(bok) is ‘luck’ or ‘fortune’ and 해 here, means ‘year’. So literally, the sentence above would be translated as ‘Get lots of new year’s good luck(fortune)’.
You can also say,

설 연휴 잘 보내세요!
(Seol yeon-hyu jal bo-ne-se-yo!)

which means, ‘Spend your Seol holiday well!’, but you would use this sentence rather at work, to your coworkers, when you are finished with your job and heading towards the door, one step closer to the heart-warming holidays.
연휴(yeon-hyu) is the word for holidays. It is a combination of 연 for continuos and 휴 for rest. You can infer that continuos rest would be a series of days to relax.
Gathering on Seol is one thing, the other important one is 세배(Seh-bae), which is a bow to the elderly that you do on New Year’s day. Traditionally, the Korean culture is very shy in bluntly expressing their feelings and it has been only a few decades that hugs and kisses have become a form of showing their love. 절(jeol; bow) was a way to greet and express your respect and love towards the elderly, and that’s exactly what Korean people have done on new year’s day. So the bow(절) on new year’s day was given a special name, 세배. In Korea there’s nothing more adorable than a little child trying to do 세배(at least the pose is just cute), and there is nothing lovelier when you get 세배 from your child(no matter if it is 3 or 30).

Usually, after you do 세배 to your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and so on, you give each other words of blessing. Theses days, the person who received your 세배, will give you some pocket money, the 세뱃돈(seh-baet-don; 돈(don) for money) if you are still a child. If you are already grown up, however, and earn your own money, it’s customarily that you give them some pocket money. The amount is totally up to you. There are also some scamps who would even do 세배 to an older sister or cousin, just for the sake of getting some 세뱃돈.
So if you are ready to get some love from your family’s senior members speak it out loud:

‘세배 받으세요.’
(Seh-bae ba-deu-seh-yo.)

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