New Year’s Eve: UK and South Korea

While many of us will be out this New Year’s Eve most likely drinking and using the excuse of ‘the kissing someone at midnight tradition’ to get close to your latest crush, let’s take a look at how the two countries of the UK and South Korea celebrate this time of the year.


Traditional New Year

New Year’s Eve traditions in the UK

When you think about a traditional New Year’s celebration in the UK, there is one thing that immediately springs to mind – Hogmanay. This ancient tradition, which most likely stems from the old Norse tradition of celebrating winter solstice, coupled with elements of the Gaelic celebrations of Samhain and the Viking celebration of Yule, is a much loved way to bring in the New Year, especially in the North of the country. There are many different customs tied in with this celebration, but the most common is known as ‘first-footing’. This customs entails that people go, just after midnight, to a friend’s or neighbour’s house and cross their threshold to give them gifts, and this will ensure good luck for the rest of the year. Apparently, tall, dark haired men are meant to be the first to do this custom. Us at Korean Class MASSIVE definitely would not mind some hunky Scottish men in kilts this New Year’s! One of the most well known parts of Hogmanay would be singing Auld Lang Syne to bring in the New Year. Originally a poem, it was later set to music, and is a great addition to any New Year’s celebration. It’s always fun linking arms with friends and family then having a bit of a sing. However, does anyone actually know all the lyrics to this, or do you find yourself mumbling along after a few lines like me?

Looking slightly more south in the UK, there are plenty of other traditions that can be done at New Year. In Mountain Ash, Rhondda, a race called the Nos Galan take place. This gruelling sounding tradition involves 5km races around the town. Started in the 18th Century, this tradition sees entertainment starting at 4.30pm on New Year’s Eve, followed by children’s races then the adult’s races. There’s also a mystery sports star who joins in the celebrations every year! This wouldn’t be my cup of tea to take part in, but looks fun for spectators.


The UK is full of weird and wacky traditions, and New Years is no exception. There were so many strange and odd traditions to choose from, it was difficult to narrow them all down! If you’re looking to have a traditional UK New Year’s, there’s definitely things out there for you.

Sources for this section here and here

New Year’s Eve traditions in South Korea

Unlike in the UK, in South Korea, New Year is a time to spend with family, and not friends. However, there are many different events that people can attend with family, or friends. In South Korea, the Bosingak is a large bell pavilion built in the 1390s (though it has been destroyed and reconstructed several times over). In the Joseon dynasty, the bell was rung several times a day to signal the opening and closing of the city gates. More recently, the bell has been rung to signal in the New Year. This event is so popular, Metro Lines have to be closed due to the massive amount of people coming to watch the event.


Another traditional way to begin the New Year in South Korea is with the Homigot Sunrise Festival. This event takes place on the eastern most point of the Korean peninsula, in a place known as Homigot, or ‘village on a tiger’s tale’. It’s known to be the location for the earliest sunrise in Korea. This event has cultural dances and performances, a sunrise concert, as well as free samples of tteoguk (a traditional New Year’s day dish)! This event started in 1999 to celebrate the millenium, and has since attracted millions of visitors.


Sources for this section here, here and here

Modern New Year’s Eve

A modern New Year’s Eve in the UK

So what comes into your mind when you think New Year’s Eve in the UK nowadays? Drinking, drinking, drinking, and perhaps…..drinking? Oh, and fireworks, lots of them. Alcohol aside, there are a lot of fun things to see and do in the UK for New Years. A simple search on the net will turn up about a million and one different events you can go to this year that cater for all ages ranges and tastes.


As you can see, Time Out for London has a massive selection of things you can do. It’s hard to narrow down what to write about, as there is simply so much to do!! One of the great things about New Year’s Eve recently is, for London at least, is that travel is FREE between 23.45pm – 4.30am on the Tube, buses, DLR and tram. Trust me, this comes in very useful when you end up at a random club at 3am with no idea how to get back. Just jump on the first tube or bus, and bam, you’re home!

You can also do the modern take on traditional celebrations. Scotland has one of the biggest New Year’s celebrations in the UK with its modern Hogmanay. Check out the official website to see the massive range of events they’ve got lined up this year. This site has everything you need to know, from event information to a travel advice.

A modern New Year’s Eve in South Korea 

We all know that South Korea is a country that loves its technology and music business, so what else do we expect than New Year’s celebrations that are full of technical whizz and great music! MNet’s Highlight festival promises to be one of Seoul’s biggest celebrations. The line up for this mega concert includes the Far East Movement and Jay Park, and is sure to be a great way to bring in the New Year. Those born in the lucky year of 1993 get 50% off!! Jealous.


What would New Year be without a good old countdown? Countdown Seoul 2012 will be a great way to spend this New Year. Set inside a massive mall, there will be three different stages to cater for different tastes in music. Essentially, there’ll be something for everyone to listen to! If only I lived the life of an international millionaire and could jet over to attend this in my private jet…..ah well.


Source for this section here, here and here

In the end, it seems like the UK and South Korea have many things in common when it comes to New Year. There are the traditional celebrations, which are often more sedate and cultural, then you have the more modern celebrations which involve huge parties. In both countries, there are events that will suit all different people regardless of age or gender. What will you be doing this New Year’s Eve?

Korean Class MASSIVE wishes you a HAPPY NEW YEAR! 


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