New years luck

“Korea is pretty strict about how you treat your elders. One example I remember is on new years, lunar not Jan 1st, you’re supposed to bow down and say 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) which roughly translates to, I wish you receive lots of good luck. Its a full bow, you get on your knees, and there’s a specific hand you put on top of the other depending on your gender. If you do this, you get money in return, so there’s no reason not to. It basically allows the elders to pay for good luck and respect, and the kids get money”

My informant and I have participated in this act. We both do it every year, even if we have to facetime our grandparents. The saying can also be sort of like a ‘happy new year’ in that you can say it to your taxi driver without the whole bow. It became a tradition since it solidifies the hierarchy in the family.

This ritual often takes less than 10 minutes. In the past, my sister, dad, and I would do it during dinner, since with the time shift, it would be our grandparents breakfast. Like other rituals, its designed to control some part of the elder’s life, in this case their luck. There is a lot controlled during the ceremony also, such as how you bow and what your hands should be doing.