Linguistic Heritage Related to Lunar New Year’s Day

Of late, staff reporter Ham Kwang Hyok had an interview with Pang Jong Ho, vice-chairman of the Korean Linguistics Society, about the linguistic heritage related to the lunar New Year’s day.

Ham: The lunar New Year’s Day falls on February 12 this year. I have been told that our ancestors created and developed many linguistic heritages related to it. I want to know about them exactly.

Pang: The Korean people celebrated the day as a folk holiday. It has been celebrated since the period of ancient states from Ancient Joson to Koguryo, Koryo and feudal Joson dynasty.

There are many vocabularies in relation to the day, including solcharyesolbim and sebae.

Sol, together with sal, meant “year of age” in Korean. Later, sal was used as a unit for counting the age and sol for the term of the New Year’s Day.

The Korean people paid tribute to deceased ancestors at the dawn of the day, which was called charye. The rice-cake soup was a must on the charye menu.

Sebae which came of the Korean people’s tradition of respecting their elders and decorum, means to make bows to parents and elderly relatives and neighbours.

The dishes of the day were called sechan. The Korean people prepared various dishes and ate them together with family members and relatives and shared them with their neighbours too. The costume of the day was called solbim. Besides, there were solcharim (preparation of the dishes for the lunar New Year’s Day), solchire (decoration of the house and its environment to celebrate the day), Tapchu (singing and dancing party on the day) and others which reflect the Korean people’s noble and beautiful etiquette and sentimental and optimistic feelings.

Ham: I guess proverbs that include the word sottal are also part of the linguistic heritage for the day.

Pang: You are right. “You will have gray eyebrows if you go to bed on the New Year’s Eve”, “There are working days even in sottal (the last month of the year)” which prove that sottal is connected with sol, that is, the New Year’s Day.

Besides, there is a word “toktam”. Toktam means a conversation friends and neighbours have to wish each other good health, happiness and harmony in the family when they meet on the way to make sebae.

Today toktam has developed into greetings of wishing for greater successes in and out of work, inheriting the Korean people’s traditional moral traits of living harmoniously.

Ham: Thank you.

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