bowl of tteokguk (rice cake soup) on pastel-colored placemat and wooden spoon and chopsticks

Image © Korea Tourism Organization

Lunar New Year: Your Birthday Too

We’re celebrating Lunar New Year by sharing personal insights on how different countries mark the holiday. Post your own traditions in the comments.

On Lunar New Year’s Day in Korea, we eat tteokguk, a traditional rice cake soup. There is a belief that eating this soup will make you one year older. My uncle used to say, “If you don’t eat this, you should consider your friends your elders.”

Korea has an interesting system for calculating age. You become a year older each January 1 instead of on your specific birthday. And when a baby is born, they are already a year old because pregnancy is factored into the child’s age. As a result, if you go to Korea, you will be considered one or two years older than you were before you arrived!

tteokguk soup
In Korea, a soup called tteokguk is believed to bring good luck and add one year to the age of whoever eats it. © Korea Tourism Organization

Taehyung Kim

Taehyung Kim is a youth and family programs intern at the Freer|Sackler.

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