As the holiday season is quieting down in the Western world, the Eastern world is gearing up for Lunar New Year. Although Koreans celebrate both Solar and Lunar New Years, Lunar New Year is one of Korea’s most important traditional holidays. Traditional holidays are called 명절 (transliteration: “myeong jeol”). In our previous blog article, we discussed that Lunar New Year is called 설날 (transliteration: “Sohl-nahl”), with the literal meaning roughly translating to, “new day”.
설날 is a three-day public holiday in Korea; public holidays are called 공휴일 (transliteration: gonghyu- il). The holiday begins on 설날 eve; this year, 설날 lands on January 23rd. The 2012 three-day holiday will be from January 22nd to January 24th. Most Korean business are closed on 설날 eve and day, as most of Koreans travel to visit family members and elders. This is the busiest travel time of the year in Korea.
Will you celebrate 설날? If so, what are your plans? (Note: Next week, I will write about how I celebrated 설날!)
Many Korean businesses give 설날 calendars to their employees and customers; most of these calendars include both the solar and lunar cycles. Today, Korea abides by the solar calendar; but some traditionalists rely on the lunar calendar to determine birthdays, etc. In Korean, the (Gregorian) solar calendar is called 양력 (transliteration: “yang nyeok”), and the lunar calendar is called 음력 (transliteration: “eum nyeok”).
As 설날 approaches, Koreans enjoy festive décor donning the zodiac animal associated with the new year. This year, 2012, will be the year of the dragon; the fifth animal in the zodiac cycle. The dragon symbolizes courage, change, and hope! The 양력 has 12 zodiac animals; each animal represents a year, in a 12-year cycle.
The 12 zodiac animals in the 음력, in cyclic order:
Rat (쥐, jhi)
Ox (소, soh)
Tiger (호랑이, ho-rang-i)
Rabbit (토끼, toki)
Dragon (용, yong)
Snake (뱀, behm)
Horse (말, mahl)
Sheep (양, yang)
Monkey (원숭이, won-soong-i)
Rooster (수탉, soo-tahk)
Dog (개, gae)
Pig (돼지, deh-ji)
Most Koreans, when asking for your age, will ask you for your birth year. But, it can be fun to ask, “Which zodiac animal were you born under?” Here’s how to say it in Korean, “당신은 무엇 조디악 동물 아래에 태어 났죠?” (transliteration: “Dahngshi neun myo jodia dongmuhl nahdeh tay-oh nah-jho?”)
So, “당신은 무엇 조디악 동물 아래에 태어 났죠?”
Look at the chart below to determine your birth year’s zodiac animal. And remember, if you were born in January or February—you will have to reference the 음력 to see when 설날 began during your solar birth year. For example, if you were born on January 1st, 1990, you are a snake.
Many Koreans plan matchmaking, weddings, and childbirth around a particular zodiac animal year. The Year of the Dragon is supposedly a luck-filled year, especially for childbirth! If you would like to know more about the 2012 Dragon Year predictions, The Korea Blog explained it wonderfully, here: http://bit.ly/zc9IEO. I enjoyed reading about the symbolic significance of dragons in Buddhism, Korean culture, and Korean art!
I hope you have a wonderful Lunar New Year, and a prosperous Year of the Dragon! “Happy New Year!”/“새해 복 많이 받으세요!” (transliteration: “Say hey bok mahn ee bahd euh sae yo!”)