It’s Korean New Year, an auspicious time where families and friends show their appreciation for one another and honor their ancestors. Although the Korean New Year is always a time of good luck and prosperity, this year also happens to be the year of the tiger and the year of the black tiger. This makes it an especially important time for Koreans because of their close ties to the animal!
Korea has long been known as the “land of tigers”, due to the tigers which once dominated the Korean peninsula. Tigers are so ingrained in Korean history and folklore that you’ll even see Korea depicted as a tiger, as seen in our Tiger Pocket Tee.
We also featured the traditional portrayal of the tiger in our Tiger Box Tee!
This year, known as Iminnyeon (임인년, translating to the Black Tiger Year) is referred to because this is the 39th year in the Stems-and-Branches, also known as the traditional way that Koreans and other Asian countries recorded time. As one 'cycle' of Stems-and-Branches takes sixty years, this year is seen as especially important because of how much time passes between years of the black tiger.
Historically, the tiger symbolizes leadership, strength, independence, passion, and power; and was worshiped as a mountain god that guarded villages. Their popularity as protectors against evil was such that paintings and talismans depicting tigers were also used as a way to ward off misfortune! This is belief is especially strong during this time because this is the year of the black tiger. Experts state that black tigers are known for being adventurous, vigorous, brave, and full of energy. This indicates that this year will be especially full of positive energy and adventure.
During this time of year, many Koreans hang art depicting a tiger and a magpie. Though these two may seem to make an unlikely pair, it’s actually a very common subject in Korean art.
In some stories, the tiger is depicted as the messenger of the Mountain Spirit, and the magpie the messenger of the Village Spirit. Both the tiger and the magpie are also seen as auspicious symbols, with the tiger known as a protector against evil and the magpie as a bearer of good news. Showing these two animals together is meant to be a talisman to ward away evil and bad happenings, so it is common to see paintings of the magpie and the tiger hung in the house during Korean New Year. This is essentially a way for Koreans to make sure they have the best start to a prosperous year!
How are you celebrating Korean New Year? Let us know in the comments down below!