The National Folk Museum is offering a variety of events, including traditional Korean music performances, to boost the holiday mood from today through Tuesday. / Courtesy of National Folk Museum
"Seollal", or Lunar New Year's Day, is one of the biggest holidays in Korea where families gather together and some perform "charye", an ancestral worship ritual. The representative food for Seollal is rice cake soup called "tteokguk". According to tradition, you can only become older when you eat this.
Four ancient palaces in Seoul ― Gyeongbok, Changdeok, Changgyeong and Deoksu ― and the Jongmyo royal shrine will be open for free on Lunar New Year's Day which falls on Monday this year. Those wearing traditional Korean costume "hanbok" will also be admitted free on Sunday and Tuesday.
Visitors to the palaces and shrine can receive "Dragon and Cloud" paintings on a first-come first-serve basis from Monday at 2 p.m. Several buildings in the palaces will be open to the public.
The National Folk Museum, located in Gyeongbok Palace, is full of events to boost the traditional holiday mood. Families can have their New Year's fortune told and participate in folk games such as "yutnori", a board game using sticks, and "jegichagi", a Korean shuttle game. On Tuesday, 500 lucky people born in the year of the dragon will receive "bokjori", a strainer representing happiness. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China, there will be an array of Chinese New Year traditional events such as a fortune-telling draw.
The National Museum of Korea offers a feast of "gukak", or traditional Korean music, to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday. The Tori Ensemble will play the "geomungo", "daegeum" and other percussion instruments, while Chung Jae-kook will present a piri, or traditional small flute solo, titled "Heoncheonsu". Won Il, artistic director of the music group Baramgot, will perform modernized gukak. Maestro "gayageum" player Hwang Byung-ki will give explanations during the concert.
Chongdong Theater will give "hangwa" (traditional Korean cookies) to people watching "Miso", a musical featuring traditional dance and music based on the folktale "Chunhyang".
At Seoul Namsan Gugakdang in Namsan Hanok Village, foreign residents and tourists can experience traditional seasonal customs including making rice cake soup.
The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon and its annex in Deoksu Palace will also open for free from Saturday to Tuesday. Currently, special exhibitions "Tell me Tell me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2011" and "Beautiful Encounter: The Gifts of Collection" are being held at Gwacheon, while "Limb Eung-sik: Art of Recording, Records of Art" is showcased at Deoksu. Visitors to the museum can also see "Art Folly 2012 ― Cubrik", a public art project in front of Seoul Zoo.
As always, many channels will air special programs for the holidays. Here are some worth checking out.
Arirang TV will present a two-part special titled "From Unique to Universal; Hansik", on the growing recognition of Korean traditional food. The first episode will feature how traditional Korean dishes have been transformed. Angelo Sosa, an American chef who starred in the reality show, "Top Chef", will reveal his recipe for a "bibimbap" burger. The second episode will introduce successful restaurants such as Cham Cham Korean BBQ in New York and Shin Jung in Paris. The first episode will air twice on Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and the second episode will air the next day at 1 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
On a more serious note, EBS will present a two-part documentary "Children Around the World". Originally aired in March 2011 in three episodes, it will remind people of children who are denied things we take for granted including safety, education and food. The first episode, which will air Jan. 23 at 1 p.m., will focus on children such as a 14-year-old Bassim struggling amid the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Bassim lost his brother to an Israeli soldier.
On Jan. 24, the show will travel to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya where 75,000 refugees from 13 surrounding African nations are huddled, scarred from conflicts in their homes. There, the show will deliver 11-year-old Mandela's story.
By Kwon Mee-yoo and Noh Hyun-gi
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards