Seollal: Celebrating the Korean Lunar New Year

Written by Meghan Gattignolo, Visitor Services Manager 

South Korean culture is strong in Clarksville. Clarksville residents are fortunate to have access to delicious and authentic Korean food and nearby Korean markets. The military presence at Ft. Campbell means that Korean culture has been flourishing in our town for decades. Over the last few years, Clarksville has also enjoyed the economic boost of South Korean companies like Hankook and LG choosing to locate manufacturing facilities here, resulting in new job opportunities for Clarksville residents. The Customs House Museum & Cultural Center is excited to celebrate the Korean Lunar New Year – known as Seollal – with a kickoff celebration on January 15.   

Courtesy of

Seollal is one of the most important traditional holidays in South Korea. Though it shares many similarities with the Chinese Lunar New Year, Seollal traditions are distinctly Korean. For three days, families emphasize time together and commemorate their ancestors. People also generally travel to their hometowns and prepare lots of special food. Tteokguk, a soup with clear broth and white rice cakes, symbolizes starting the new year fresh with a clean mind and body. Eating tteokguk also symbolizes turning a year older, so the dish is essential for celebrating Seollal. Many other foods will be found at a New Year’s table in South Korea. Manduguk (a dumpling soup), galbij jim (braised short ribs) and japchae (glass noodles) are some other popular holiday dishes. 

Yut Nori
Courtesy of Wikipedia

People playing Yut Nori
Courtesy of

Clarksville resident Pyong Kauffman recalls Seollal celebrations from her hometown as a child.  Family members would get together, eat food and play games like the card game Go-Stop and the traditional stick game yut nori. Pyong also remembers walking door to door with other children in her neighborhood during Seollal and adults would hand them money, much like trick-or-treating during Halloween in the United States. While Pyong’s daughter, Crystal Leidy, was born and raised in the US, she has her own Seollal childhood memories. Crystal attended a local Korean church while she was growing up and the church remains a significant tie to her mother’s culture. She also remembers church members giving her little presents and money in celebration of Seollal.    

Come join us at 11 am on January 15 to kick off the Lunar New Year. From 10 am to noon, all visitors will receive free admission. Immerse yourself in Korean culture and celebrate with drum dancers, Korean history and traditional food. Terry Jalinsky, President of the Korean American Association of Clarksville will be here, as well as Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts. Austin Peay State University’s student Korean Culture Club will be presenting some of the events they have hosted throughout the semester. Club President Casey Beckett and Vice President Grace Kang will be joined by APSU Assistant Professor Andrea Lee, Ed.D. Be sure to also visit the Celebrating Our Korean Culture exhibit in the Jostens Gallery at the Museum, on view from January 13 to February 27. 

Seollal lasts from February 1-3 this year and marks the beginning of the Year of the Water Tiger.   

Meghan Gattignolo

Meghan Gattignolo is the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center’s Visitor Services Manager and regularly contributes articles to the Museum’s blog. From a military family, Meghan has spent most of her life in Clarksville. She loves learning about Clarksville’s history and writing. Meghan holds a B.A. in History from Austin Peay State University, with minors in German and Political Science. She lives in Clarksville with her husband and two daughters. 

Becky Wood, Technical Writer, edits each blog post. Maegan Collins, Marketing Communications Manager, prepares photographs and visual images as well as prepares the blog posts for the web.

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