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Spotlight On Korea: What Do Koreans Do For New Years?

While Koreans typically follow the lunar calendar, many still celebrate New Year’s Eve by watching the sunrise and attending a bell ringing ceremony.

Instead of ringing in the New Year at midnight, many Koreans prefer to head to the mountains near them or the east coast to watch the first sunrise.

Koreans believe that watching the first sunrise of the new year is spiritually significant and sets a good precedent for the coming year.

Due to tightening restrictions in Korea, many beaches and other tourist attractions along the east coast were closed this year as they usually draw in many crowds of people hoping to catch the sunrise.

Many Koreans also enjoy attending firework displays, like in most parts of the world, however this year many events were cancelled due to the aforementioned restrictions.

Typically, in the Jongno (which translate to “bell street”) neighbourhood in Seoul, a large bell is rung only at midnight on New Year’s Eve, which is attended by a large number of people.

This year the ceremony was cancelled by the city’s government for the first time since the event was held first in 1953, months after the end of the Korean war. The ceremony normally attracts an estimated 100,00 people and is broadcasted live. A pre-recorded video was broadcast on television and online instead.

Sunset of Seoul City and Seoul Tower South Korea

The bell was originally used to announce the opening and closing of the four gates around Seoul, as well as being used as a fire alarm.

Cities around Korea were still decorated with NYE decorations and lights, with hundreds of red lanterns lighting up Jogye temple in Seoul. The year 2022 was displayed on Seoul’s Lotte World Tower, the world’s fifth tallest building.

Despite many event cancellations across the world due to coronavirus, North Koreans braved the snow to attend a large outdoor concert and firework display in downtown Pyongyang.

The event was largely unchanged from previous years, with famous North Korean singers and dazzling fireworks provided entertainment for thousands of Pyongyang residents gathered in Kim Il Sung Square.

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