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One year for a bowl of soup by Nam-ho Park

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  • In Korea, everybody eats the same soup on New Years day. It's call dukguk, and literally means rice cake soup. Its just a clear beef broth with thinly sliced rice cakes in it.

    In Korea everyone gains a year on New Year's day. When you are born you are already one year-old, and you become two-years old on New Year's. There is nothing rational about it - it's just tradition I guess. So if you were born on New Year's eve, you are one, then the next day, you are two already.

    We all have our western age based on our birthday like the rest of the world, but also Korean age which is always ahead by two years, then one after your birthday.

    On New Year's day, every child knows that in order to gain a year, you have to eat dukguk. I remember eating two or three bowls when I was little in the hopes that I might get older than my brother.

    There is something very communal and reassuring about everyone aging on the same day, and eating the same soup all across the land and in communities around the world. Singles and students are invited to homes to have a bowl, and New Year's is never complete without it.

    Flashing ball dropping, fireworks or ringing ancient bells. In my minds these aren't as magical as the quiet bowl of soup that gives you a year in return for its happy consumption.
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