Where and How Koreans Celebrate New Year’s Eve
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Getting excited about the New Year 2016? In case you are wondering where and how to celebrate the New Year’s Eve, we’ve selected the best of the best spots only, and the ways Koreans celebrate this wonderful day as well! So take a look, try visiting the actual places we’ve recommended here, and welcome in 2016 with your loved ones around you!
In Korea, the tradition of ringing the landmark bell marks the end of a year and simultaneously the start of a new one. The Bosingak Bell Pavilion is the landmark bell of Seoul, and is rung by the mayor of Seoul 33 times every year. This has become one of the most popular traditions amongst Koreans, and hundreds of thousands of Koreans, Seoullites and people from other cities alike, head down to Bosingak on the 31st of December to mark the end of their year, and the start of a new one.
Traditionally, during the Joseon Dynasty (AD 1392~) before the use of the Western, Gregorian calendar, the bell was used to mark the start and end of a day. When the bell was rung 33 times at approximately 4 AM in the morning, the gates of Seoul (which used to surround the city and keep out outsiders) would open. At around 10 PM in the evening, the bell would be rung 28 times, and the gates that guard the city of Seoul would be shut.
The actual, original bell that used to be used in the past is now kept away in the National Museum of Korea, and the one being used today has been recreated and modelled after the classical Buddhist bell design.
If you’d like to immerse yourself in the Korean way of welcoming the new year, and saying goodbye to the old, it would be very wise to head down to the streets of Jongno (that’s where Bosingak is located) much earlier than a few minutes before midnight of 31st December. As you saw from the picture above, an estimated 100,000 people celebrate the end of the year together at Bosingak, meaning that if you want to even have a decent chance of catching a glimpse of the bell, you have to get there at least a few hours early.
After witnessing and hearing the ringing of the bell, many people head on to a high mountain or the Eastern coast of Korea to catch the first sunrise of the year. As they witness the sunrise, they pray for the things that they hope would happen in the coming year, whether it be good health, prosperous business or great academic results. Some of the most popular locations are Busan, Jeongdongjin, as well as Jeju Island.
Refer to our previous post 15 Best Sunrise and Sunset Photography Locations Every Traveler Should Know in South Korea to find out where to catch best sunrises and sunsets across Korea.
Busan is one of the most popular locations amongst Koreans who want to witness the first sunrise of the year. Busan is, after all, located at in the far eastern corner of the Korean peninsula, meaning that those at the city are able to catch the sunrise much earlier than the rest in the country. Even within Busan however, there are many options that people can choose from.The first on the list, is the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is nationally renowned for its scenic view and fantastic location, and was built in 1376 by the great Buddhist scholar known as Naong during the Goryeo Dynasty. It is located in the north-east of Busan by the rocky seashore; the temple is quite unique as most temples are built in the mountains.
Another popular location in Busan for the New Year is Taejongdae, which is named after the 29th King of the Silla Dynasty, King Tae Jong. There, you can catch beautiful views of the ocean, cliffs and on clear days you will be able to spot (if your eyes are sharp enough) Tsushima, Japan.
Pine trees and other vegetation blanket the sides of the road that winds through the park and placards direct people to step off the main road onto paths that head to certain spots along the rocky cliffs for clear views of the ocean. Visitors can find temples, an observatory, a lighthouse, and plenty of rocky cliffs to visit and enjoy.
3. Jeju Island
Jeju Island is renowned globally for its breathtaking scenery. Coupled with the majestic sunrise of the New Year, it would be a shame if you never get the chance to witness the sunrise. Thousands of visitors flock to the Seongsan Sunrise Peak (or Seongsan Ilchulbong) at New Year to catch the first sunrise of the year. As the name suggests, the peak offers a fantastic view of both the sunrise and the surrounding area of Jeju. The peak is 182 metres high with a huge crater in the middle. The tip of the peak is surrounded by 99 sharp rocks, making the peak resemble the shape of a crown.
See more Top Things to Do in Jeju Island.
Last, but not least, one of the most popular locations that Koreans visit on the New Year Day is the area of Jeongdongjin in the city of Gangneung. Facing the East Sea, it is traditionally perceived as the best spot to view the sunrise, and one of the earliest locations in Korea to experience it.
At Jeongdongjin, it is the geographical significance that makes it a popular location amongst Koreans. Gangneung is located about 4 hours drive away from Seoul (approx. 270 km), and if you plan to travel there it would be wise to set aside some time for travelling to and from.The New Year is drawing close, and it’s time for you to start making plans! Listening to the ringing of the bell to mark the end of 2015 and watching the sunrise to mark the start of 2016 with your friends, family or significant other would be a moment that will make 2016 a much more memorable one for you! :)
ADIEU 2015 & HAPPY HOLIDAYS!