Here’s some vocabulary related to 설날


정월 (음력 January in Lunar Calendar)

섣달 (음력 December in Lunar Calendar)

섣날 그믐날 midnight before 설날

설빔 clothes worn on the new year

바지저고리  the hanbok

두루마기 overcoat of hanbok

생동옷 colorful sleeved clothing (worn by children)

버선 socks of hanbok

고무신 shoes of hanbok

조상 ancestors

조상에게 차례를 지내다 the ceremony to ancestors (like big 제사)

성묘를 가다 to go to the grave of the ancestors

세배를 하다 (드리다) to give a bow to elders

세배를 받다 to receive a bow

덕담을 듣다 to hear praise and good words for new year

닥담을 하다 to give praise

세뱃돈을 받다 to receive money for the new years

세뱃돈을 주다 to give money for the new years

정월 놀이 Games for the January Holiday


Counting System is traditionally from lunar calendar animals. You throw four sticks (막대기) and get the following number of moves.

도 (돼지 pig) =1   space (1 stick flat side up, 3 sticks round side up)

개 (개 dog) =2 spaces (2 flat, 2 round )

걸 (양 sheep)=3 spaces (3 flat, 1 round)

윷 (소 cow)=4 spaces (4 flat, 0 round) and an extra turn

모 (말 horse)=5 spaces (4 round) and an extra turn

How to play

The game is played between two partners or two teams who play in turns, sometimes it is played with more teams. There is no limit in the number of participants in a game, which means that the game can be played by a considerable group. When played with large groups it is not uncommon for some group members never to cast the sticks: they still participate discussing the strategy.

The start of the game is determined by each team casting the yut sticks. The team with the highest score starts first.

Each team then casts the sticks in turn, then moves a mal according to the score achieved. One turn usually consists of only one cast. However, a player achieving a yut or mo earns an extra cast for the turn; if he/she casts a yut or mo at the second cast, he/she earns an extra cast again, so there is no limit to the number of times a player can cast again before the end of a turn, provided he or she keeps casting yuts or mos. The respective scores can be played separately if wished, each given to another mal (or group of mals, see below), but a score earned from one cast cannot be split into two moves—for example, a geol (advance three steps) cannot be split into a do (one step) and a gae (two steps).

The four possible courses of the game of Yut

As long as there are mals outside the board, a team can either put a new mal onto the board according to the scores it got, or move a mal already on the board. The mals travel around the board and can move forward only. However, when landing on one of the big stations (in the corner and the centre), the team can choose to take the shorter way should they wish to. There are four possible courses, the default course being longest one with no abbreviation (No. 4).

If a mal lands on a station occupied by the opponent’s team, the opponent’s mal is removed from the course and returned to the starting position, and the current player is allowed to cast again.

If a mal lands on a station occupied by the own team, these mals can form a group and travel together from that point on.  However, this bears a risk: If an opponent lands their mal on a station occupied by a group of mals of the opponent, all mals in the group are removed from the course.

For example, if one casts two yuts and one do at his/her first turn in the game, possible moves would include (see The Stations below for the station names):

  • Put a mal on the board at the yut station (uses the first yut score); advance to mo (uses the do score), then to sok-yut (uses the second yut).
  • Put a mal on the board at the yut station (uses first yut score); put another mal on the board at the same yut station (uses the second yut score), causing the two mals to move together from then on; advance them to mo (uses the do).
  • Put a mal on the board at the yut station (uses the first yut); advance to duet-geol (uses the second yut), then to duet-yut (uses the do).

The game is won by the team who brings all their mals home first, that is complete the course with all their mals. A course is completed if a mal passes the station where the game is started (cham-meoki). Landing on cham-meoki is no finish, but any score going “beyond” this station completes a home run. Yut is often played for three or more wins.

[edit] Special rules

The game is sometimes enhanced by labeling one, two, or three of the yut stick on their flat side. The Seoul rule can be played if one of the sticks is labelled Seoul (서울). If this stick is the only one facing down (do so that the letters Seoul can be read), a mal can be placed directly into the centre (bang), which in this case is called Seoul. Are all the mals already on the course, this counts as a do. The Busan rule is similar. One of the yut sticks is labelled Busan (부산). Rather than to the centre, the mal travels directly to the far corner (mo). Again, this only applies if this is the only stick facing down, and not all mals are on the course already.

There is also the back rule, where one of the sticks is labelled back (후퇴). If this is the only stick facing down, one of the mals has to go back one step. Depending on the rules used, if none of the mals are on the course, then this is counted as either a do or a skipped turn. Alternatively, if the do rule is not being used, the other most common rule is for a mal to be placed onto the arrow next to the start. The mal remains there until another back is cast. In this case, however, the mal completes the course at once.