Everyone has different ways of spending the end of the year and the beginning of the new year. Furthermore, the atmosphere in which the year-end and the beginning of the new year are spent varies from country to country. In Korea, at the end of the year, certain groups such as family, friends, clubs, or companies hold gatherings or year-end parties to look back on the year. On December 31 in Korea, Korean people listen to the Watch-Night bell. On January 1, people welcome the new year by eating rice cake soup, which symbolizes turning one year older. Families or friends may make a wish while watching the sunrise over the ocean or mountains. To learn other traditions, we interviewed international students about their New Year traditions.
Tashiro Saki is from Fukuoka, Japan, and is a third-year student in the Department of Korean Language Education at Keimyung University. She plans to spend that time in Japan. In Japan, it is common to visit shrines at the end of the year and the beginning of the new year. She goes to the shrine to express her gratitude for being able to end the year well and to wish for a good new year. She will also return an amulet called Omamori and buy a new one, which must be returned because the amulet cannot be thrown away carelessly. It is said that Japanese people prepare to welcome the new year by eating Toshikoshi soba before midnight on December 31. It is said that in the New Year, a food called Osechiryouri is made and usually eaten for three days. This custom is said to have started to prepare food in advance because restaurants were closed on New Year's Day. They say it's not a big problem these days because you can get food anywhere. Tashiro Saki also plans to visit the shrine at the end of this year to express her gratitude for being able to spend 2023 well with her friends. And in the new year, she plans to go to the shrine to wish them a good year. She also said that there is a custom in the Kyushu region of Japan called three shrines near one’s home. This is also said to be one of the ways to spend the end of the year and the beginning of the new year in the Fukuoka area.
Krert Saluy is from Cambodia and is a third-year student in the Department of International Trade at Keimyung University. Krert Saluy says he plans to spend the year-end and the beginning of the new year in Cambodia. In Cambodia, people usually take a break from work at the end of the year and go back to their hometowns to spend time with friends and family. Some people say they prefer to hang out with friends in the city. He said that at the end of the year, people usually gather and set off fireworks. People often travel at the beginning of the new year with family. He said that there is no special food to eat when spending the year-end and the beginning of the year, and people usually cook and eat the foods they want. And since Cambodia has a holiday celebrating the new year in April, it can be seen as having a different meaning from the beginning of the year in Korea. Krert Saluy says he usually spends the end of the year and the beginning of the year by staying at home or going on a trip with his family.
Tashiro Saki and Krert Saluy had very different experiences when they were in Korea for New Year’s. Tashiro Saki said that she spent the year-end in Korea in 2020 because of COVID-19. Because she was not able to do the customs she usually does in Japan, she was unable to feel special the year-end and the beginning of the year feeling. She said that she indirectly experienced the end of the year and the beginning of the year in Korea when her close friend gave her New Year's money. Tashiro Saki says her goal for 2024 is to study English and work toward obtaining a Korean language certification. Krert Saluy said he once spent the year-end in Korea, where he spent time with church people. Krert Saluy says he wants to focus on studying instead of playing, and he plans to study English especially hard.
Through this interview, we were able to see that students from different countries spend the end of the year and beginning of the new year differently. We hope that international students finish the year well and achieve their desired goals.