New Years in Korea.
10…9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1….HAPPY NEW YEAR! Is what 10 foreigners screamed on Heaundae Beach at midnight. Excited for our first New Years in a foreign land we had high hopes of what Korea would have instore. Crazy parties? Tons of fireworks on the beach? A possible KPOP concert in the sand? Not quite. When the clock struck 12, we cheerfully yelled into a crowd of people unshaken by 2014’s first few seconds of existence. …… It was a little awkward to say the least.
We waited a while longer, thinking that the fireworks and the holiday cheers were just delayed, but nothing happened. That’s when we started to discover what a Korean style New Years is all about. It isn’t the champagne party, the midnight kiss, the countdown, ball dropping celebration we long for… its an amazing festival and a beautiful sunrise that provokes the people to gather.
Koreans celebrate both the solar and lunar New Years. For us on the solar calendar, a Lunar New Year can fall anywhere between Jan.21st – Feb.20th. In Korea the sun rises over the eastern coastline, and that is where you will find most Koreans on a Solar New Years Day.
One of the more famous places to be is in Busan. So there we were, without knowing much about how our celebration would be carried out, we were at the right place at the right time. So if you find yourself in Busan during the solar new year here are some options for you.
- Head to Yongdusan Park and get a panoramic view of the city in Busan tower. This park is a hot spot for couples to watch the sunrise and write little love notes or wishes on padlocks that they attach to the surrounding fences.
- Haeundae Beach is one of the most popular places to welcome the first sunrise. You will see people releasing balloons full of wishes of a successful New Year, surrounded by family and loved ones. As well as some concerts that kick off at 5Am.
- Walk the Diamond Bridge or the path starting from Haeundae beach to Gwangali beach as you watch the sunrise.
- If you really hate the cold and want a higher view of the sunrise, you can go to Dalmaji Hill, where you can sit inside the many fancy cafes and bring in the new year in a more comfortable setting.
So there are many options on how you can bring in your perfect New Year in Busan! But whatever you do…make sure to get to these spots at 6AM or a little bit earlier to get a good spot for that beautiful, coastal Korean sunrise.
I have to say I do really love the way Koreans bring in the New Year, rather then the traditional route of having January 1st be National Hangover Day for myself and many Americans. I love how they spend their New Years Day surrounded by family, watching the first sunrise of the 1st of January.
Given our small humiliation on Haeundae Beach at midnight, my posse and I decided to combine the traditions. This meant we would casually party and make sure none of us would fall asleep to then join the well rested Koreans in the morning for a beautiful sunrise and then pass out on the KTX on our way back to Deagu. So we left the beach and proceeded to try out all the local bars and coffee shops until sunrise. One of my favorite bars near Haeundae beach is U2, its a small bar that sells hooka and has a pretty good vibe to talk with friends and dance when necessary.
After we exhausted a few bars and Hof (food and beer restaurants) options it was time for coffee. Oh Korean coffee shops, how I love thee. Staying up all night was beginning to feel like a real stupid idea by 4AM, but thats when I realized we were not alone. By the numbers of sleeping 20-somethings in the coffee shops I quickly came to realize we weren’t the only ones that wanted the best of both worlds. Stay up as late as you can, then sleep in a 24hr coffee shop till sunrise on New Years. Nicely done guys, nicely done.
Our plan seemed simple and flawless enough to execute. That was until we were all huddled together in the freezing sea air waiting for the sun to rise. Other people had their hats and mittens, a fresh cup of tea in hand, with their well rested eyes…all too cheery to start the new year. We….did not look that fortunate. Holding my heels in one hand, the other wrapped around Kevin for warmth. I grumbled at our stupid idea…I’ve seen a sun rise before….I’m freezing, why are we doing this?!
Then peaks of sun beams started to pop up over the ocean. As the sun rose, my bitterness of being cold and tired faded. It was beautiful. And as luck would have it my phone died before I could try and capture it all. Still the sunrise was amazing and I loved watching all the couples and families around me release their balloons in silent wishes of what the New Year will bring.
Shortly after the sun rose we rallied the troops and made our way back to the train station for a deep sleep of a ride home.
My advice to you. Don’t do what I did, without the proper training of staying up all night. Instead, book a hostel for the night, stay up till midnight, have your champagne then set your alarms and enjoy the beauty that a Korean New Years has to offer.