With the coming of the annual winter solstice on December 22nd, Dongji is celebrated as the passing of the “small” new year, with the lunar new year celebrated in January and/or February depending on the lunar cycle. Traditionally, Koreans believed that evil spirits could be warded off by placing patjuk (red bean porridge) in their homes. Visitors can join in on Dongji-related celebrations by participating in activities such as patjuk tastings and watching performances of pungmul, or Korean folk dance at Namsangol Hanok Village in Seoul on December 21stfrom 11am to 5pm. Those in other parts of Korea can also participate in Dongji festivals, such as those held at theKorean Folk Village in Yongin and the Folk Village Museum on Jeju Island.
Patjuk (red bean porridge)
By Subway (to Namsangol Hanok Village):
Get off at Chungmuro Station (Line 3, Line 4) Exits 3&4, and walk 150 meters along the road between these exits.
Seongsan Sunrise Festival
Since 1994, the Seongsan Sunrise Festival has celebrated the first sunrise of each year at Seongsan Ilchulbong, aUNESCO World Heritage Site on Jeju Island. Created by an underwater volcano, this tuff cone is named seongsan, or “castle-shaped mountain,” and ilchulbong, or “sunrise peak,” due to its location on the east coast of Jeju. This makes it the perfect location for the Sunrise Festival, which takes place from December 30st to January 1st. After witnessing the birth of the first day of the new year, spectators can then visit nearby attractions, such as Seongsan Park and the Jeju Haenyeo (“Woman Diver”) Show. More information about the festival is available here.
From Jeju International Airport, take Bus 100 to Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal. (Travel time: 1.5 hours)
From Jeju Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus bound for Ilju Road (East)
Get off at the entrance of Seongsan Ilchulbong. (Travel time: 1.5 hours)
Bosinggak Bell-ringing in Seoul
During the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), the Bosingak Bell in present-day Jongno, the traditional center of Seoul, was used to regulate and announce the opening and closing of the city gates to allow citizens in and out of the capital. From 11:30pm on December 31st to 12:30am on January 1st, the bell will be rung 33 times to welcome the new year. Afterwards, revelers will fill the many restaurants and bars nearby to celebrate. Seoul’s most popular New Year’s event draws large crowds, and so those attending should plan to arrive early. Note that Seoul Subway Line 1 does not stop at Jonggak Station on New Year’s Eve.
Get off at Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5) or Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station (Line 1 & Line 5), and walk to Jonggak Station (Line 1), Exit 4