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Korean adoptive families celebrate Lunar New Year

Typically, when Westerners think of the celebrations of Lunar or Chinese New Year, we think of the flashier displays: paper dragons, fireworks and parades.

But not all cultures celebrate the new year in such a manner. In Korea, the festivities are much more subdued and focus on honoring family.

A fete to honor the Lunar New Year, known in Korea as Seol-nal, was held at the Liverpool High School Ninth Grade Annex Sunday Feb. 10. The party was hosted by the Central New York Adoptive Families Korean Network (CNY AFKN), a support group for parents who have adopted children from Korea.

"This is one of our three big events during the year -- it's probably our biggest," said Kathy Woodruff, CNY AFKN co-president. "It's been going on for more than 20 years."

The event included Korean crafts and food as well as a percussion performance from the Cheon Ji In, Syracuse University's Korean percussion team, and traditional Korean Lunar New Year activities. Seol-nal is the second most important holiday in Korean culture, following Chuseok, or the Harvest Moon Festival, which is celebrated in the early fall.

The holiday is important, Woodruff said, because it celebrates family.

"We tend to think of the very flashy things when we think of Chinese New Year," she said. "But in Korea, it's more a day of paying respects to your ancestors and your culture."

As part of CNY AFKN's celebration, CNY Korean School President Jongwoo Han and his wife Kyunghee led those in attendance in the saebae, when youths bow and show respect to their elders. They are then rewarded with money (at LHS Sunday, the Hans gave out chocolate coins).

"That's a huge part of the Korean New Year," Woodruff said. "It's a very moving display of children showing respect to their elders."

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