Festivals & Events

Sinjeong ㅡ Solar New Year in South Korea

Having two New Year Celebrations, on January 1st Sinjeong (신정) ㅡ The Solar New Year in South Korea ㅡ is held. While at the end of January (or early February) the lunar new year, 설날 (Seollal) or 구정 (Gujeong) is celebrated.

For Koreans, in fact, it is not such an important holiday, in comparison to Seollal (설날). However, many of them gather to celebrate it in Bosingak (보신각), located in Seoul. On the other hand, they do different activities to celebrate it, which we are about to introduce you.

Bell Ceremony (보신각타종행사)

As mentioned before, it is not an important holiday for Koreans. However, they gather at Bosingak (보신각), located in Seoul.

In modern times, and after the end of the year countdown, the bell (보신 각종) rings after being hit for 33 times.

While in the past, the bell was rung 33 times during sunrise and 28 times during the afternoon. In fact, it was hit for 28 times in order to represent the 28 constellations. When being hit by 33 times, it represents the 33 heavens. On the contrary, at the temples they do it 28 times at dawn, and 33 times in the afternoon (Buddhist customs).

Ancient Times

During the Joseon dynasty (조선시대), this bell was in the center of the castle. Because of this, it was rung to announce the opening and closing of the four portals of Seoul.

At 4 AM and 10 PM, the bell rang 33 times before the gates were opened and closed. However, in 1898, a tram was installed in Seoul, which passed through 남대문 (Namdaemun). Since they wanted to mantain the gate open, they stopped hitting the bell. In addition, the clock had already been invented, so it was unnecessary for them to announce the time by this means.

The pavilion that contained the bell, was burned during 임진왜란 (Imjin yeran), when Japanese troops invaded in 1592. In 1619, it was rebuilt, although it was sadly destroyed around 4 times, before the end of the Joseon dynasty. As a result, the present pavilion was built in 1980.

© 연합뉴스TV
Modern Times

Nowadays, they use a replica of the bell. Since the National Museum of 용산 (Yongsan) is preserving the original, to prevent wear.

Currently, visitors can participate by wearing traditional clothes, ringing the bell and also, they also have the opportunity to make a wish while resting their hands on it.

New Year according to Buddhism

On New Years Eve, there was a tradition of making loud noises to scare off evil spirits, before the start of the year. Although lighting the area brightly has the power to exorcise evil spirits and get rid of darkness, they consider noise to be a more powerful preventive measure. Moreover, commoners used to burn bamboo trees or pine branches to make them sound, rang bells, or fired toy guns to drive away evil spirits.

© 장호철
History

During the Joseon dynasty (1392-1895), a ritual was held to end the year at the palace. Henceforth, people fired with toy guns, rifles, and played a Gong in government offices. In addition, to scare away evil spirits, there was a ceremony in which people had to wear masks and play percussion instruments inside the palace. Also, there was a popular belief about thundering fireworks in the yard, they thought it would keep them safe from infectious diseases.

Besides that, and to conclude the year, they carried out other traditions. Such as eating the dinner without leaving any residue, finishing sewing everything that was left pending before the end of the year. Also, there were people who paid their debts at the end of the day. The reason why they waited till the end of the day, is that if there were unpaid debts, for that day the debtors did not push them to pay.

Also, people used to bow before shrines and older people.

New Year = New Mentality

Back then, the husbands were in charge of cleaning the entire house, inside and out. Meanwhile, the wives were in charge of cooking the food they were going to eat.

By this, people showed that they wanted to start the new year with a new mentality, that would benefit both, themselves and other people. Also, to eliminate from their memories the misfortunes and bad memories of the past year.

Festivals

During this day, some people gather with their family and friends to witness the first sunrise of the year. Since it is usually a large event, even the media covers in real time.

© 대한민국 뉴스의 시작 연합뉴스TV / Yonhap News TV

If you have the opportunity to experience the Sinjeong ㅡ Solar New Year in South Korea ㅡ, these are some festivals that we particularly recommend:

Seongsan Sunrise Festival (제주성산일출축제)
© korea tourism organization

This venue is located in Jeju Island.

Fee: Free of charge
Venue: Area of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak
How to get there: From Jeju International Airport, you need to take the Bus No. 100 to Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal. From Jeju Bus Terminal, you need to take an intercity bus bound for Ilju Road (East) and then, get off at the entrance of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak

More information

Address: 284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do

Ganjeolgot Sunrise Festival (울산 간절곶 해맞이축제)

This venue is located in Ulsan.

Fee: Free of charge
Venue: Ganjeolgot Cape
How to get there: First, from Ulsan Intercity Express Bus Terminal, you need to take Bus No. 715 to Ganjeolgot Cape Bus Stop, and then walk for approx. 12 min.

More information

Address: 39-2, Ganjeolgot 1-gil, Ulju-gun, Ulsan

Homigot Sunrise Festival (호미곶 한민족 해맞이축전)

This venue is located in Pohang.

Fee: Free of charge
Venue: Homigot Sunrise Square
How to get there: From Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal, you need to take Bus 200 and then, get off at Guryongpo. From Guryongpo, you will need to transfer to a bus bound for Homigot

More information

Address: 136, Haemaji-ro, Nam-gu, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival (정동진 해맞이 축제 모래시계회전식)

This venue is located in Gangneung.

Fee: Free of charge
Venue: Jeongdongjin Sandglass Park
How to get there: From Cheongnyangni Station, you need to take a train to Jeongdongjin Station

More information

Address: Jeongdongjin2-ri, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do

Gyeongpo Sunrise Festival (경포해맞이축제)

This venue is located in Gangneung.

Fee: Free of charge
Venue: Gyeongpodae Beach
How to get there: From Gangneung Bus Terminal / Gangneung Station, you need to take Bus No. 202 to Gyeongpodae

More information

Address: 514, Changhae-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do

Yeosu Hyangiram Sunrise Festival (여수향일암일출제)

This venue is located in Yeosu.

Fee: Free of charge
Venue: Impo Maeul Village (Hyangiram) Area
How to get there: Across from Yeosu Intercity Bus Terminal, you need to take local bus No. 111 or No. 113 to Hyangiram Hermitage

More information

Adderss: 70-4, Hyangiram-ro, Yeosu-si, Jeollanam-do

In case you want to know more about Hyangiram, we recommend you to read the article we have prepared for you!

New Year is a special holiday for everyone in South Korea. To prepare for the New Year, Koreans spend time cleaning their homes, buying new clothes, and preparing traditional dishes. Every year, millions of people gather together to welcome the New Year in Korea. Have you already decided on what to do for New Year’s…

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Conclusion

If you want to enjoy the Sinjeong(Solar New Year in South Korea), we highly recommend you to visit these festivals! And of course, is the perfect moment to make a wish.

Also, do not forget to visit my profile to find more interesting posts about South Korea! Click here.

🇲🇽 Fernanda L. Negrete

Fernanda is an integral designer and korean language student. Who wants to share about her travel experiences and korean history.