DON’T SLEEP ON NEW YEAR’S EVE OR YOUR EYEBROWS WILL TURN WHITE
In the past, Korean people didn’t sleep on New Year’s Eve, believing that sleeping will make one’s eyebrows turn all white. For children who couldn’t overcome the sleepiness were teased by the parents who put white flour on their eyebrows. This custom of staying up all night, called suse 수세, is believed to have originated to encourage people to work hard to prepare for the busy New Year’s Day morning.
WHY WOULD KOREANS HIDE THEIR SHOES ON NEW YEAR’S EVE?
There is a ghost named yagwang 야광 that comes down to where people live on New Year’s Eve, tries on the children’s shoes, and takes the ones that fit their feet. There was a superstitious belief that a child who lost his/her shoes would have bad luck all year round, so children would put their shoes upside down or hide them in their rooms before going to bed.
THE KOREAN NEW YEAR COUNTDOWN – BOSINGAK 보신각 BELL-RINGING CEREMONY
It’s believed to have originated from the Buddhist ceremony where the temple bell was struck 108 times on New Year’s Eve, symbolic of removing the 108 defilements of humankind. The ceremony of striking of the bell at midnight, or jeyaeui jong 제야의 종 (“the Watch-Night bell”), on the last day of the year, however, actually became a ritual during the Japanese Occupation. In 1928, the Gyeongseong Broadcasting Station aired the bell-striking on New Year’s Day as a special program (the bell used at that time was borrowed from Dongbonwonsa Temple, a Japanese temple located below Namsan Mountain in Seoul). After Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule, the midnight ceremony began at the end of 1953 when Bosingak Bell 보신각, which was destroyed by the Korean War, was reconstructed. For the ceremony, the bell is struck 33 times, the same number used to announce the opening of the 4 gates at 5 A.M. during the Joseon Dynasty. It also meant wishing the Buddhist guardian deity for the nation’s peace and prosperity. This event, similar to the countdown events around the world, is also popular among couples, but it might not be as exciting as you’d expect because there will be just too many people hoping to celebrate the special moment with their loved ones and you’d be lucky if you can have a glimpse of the bell. But no need to be disappointed yet – You can watch the bell-striking event, which is held regularly, on other days.