This Sunday is the first day of the new lunar calendar. Traditionally, it’s the day Korea celebrates the New Year. It’s commonly called Seol or Seollal. It’s a three-day weekend, and most Koreans will spend the extra time off visiting family. There will be traditional clothes, fancy dinners, games, and honoring relatives, elders, and ancestors. The traditional Korean blessing on this day is "say hay boke-mahn he pah du say oh" or “please receive many New Year’s blessings.” So "say hay boke-mahn he pah du say oh" everybody!
Continuing the tradition of exploring the unique and unusual culture that is Korea, I bring you the tale of the Yakwanggy. On the night of the New Year, a tiny little goblin called the Yakwanggy comes calling at Korean homes. Your whole family is inside, having just feasted and celebrated the holiday, and all your shoes are piled up near the door. The Yakwanggy sees this glorious pile and spends the night trying on all the shoes, hoping to find a pair that fits. If he does, he runs off into the night with them.
If you wake up the day after New Years and find that your shoes are missing from the door, don’t panic. It just means you’re in for a year of bad luck (Okay, so panic a little bit). If you, like most rational people, want to avoid this particularly nasty fate, you have one of two options.
1) Hide your shoes. He can’t steal them if he can’t find them. Koreans tend to stick them in the attic or somewhere else out of sight over New Years.
2) Put out a noodle strainer. No, seriously. The little guy loves shiny, metal objects with holes in them. It’s a counting thing. Apparently, he’ll try to figure out how many holes there are, get lost in the shiny, and have to start all over.
Either way, as soon as the sun comes up, you’re golden. Or your shoes are golden. So Happy New Years, guard your shoes, and I wish you many blessings in the coming year!
If you want to read more about this Korean Holiday: (http://www.clickasia.co.kr/about/h0101.htm)