New Year's Clothes for New Year's Day
"Today is New Year's Day.", so starts author/illustrator Hyun-Joo Bae's eye-catching book."But the very best new things of all the new things are..." and the very young Korean girl in the book goes on to tell us about her Sol-bim, the new clothes her mother made for her, specially for New Year's day: a crimson skirt, embroidered socks, a rainbow-striped jacket, a head band, flowered shoes, a furry vest, a satin winter hat, and a good luck charm to hang from the jacket string for good luck.
Koreans, Bae tells us in the afterword, do not get a year older on their birthdays, but on New Year's Day instead when they celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year after they've eaten a special morning rice cake soup and given their ancestors their first ceremonial bow (Se-bae) of the year.
An auspicious way to start the Lunar New Year is to wear new clothes, made with wishes for the wearer to forget unhappy events of the previous year and to have a happy new one. Not everyone's new year's day clothes are as fancy as the little girl's in the book, but we learn that, traditionally, each element of the Sol-bim holds a special meaning. In her case: the striped pattern represents the wish that the she be in harmony, like the colors; the embroidery on the socks is for good luck, and so on.
Bae's delightful illustrations show the girl carefully putting on each layer of the garment, following a ritual well-known to her culture, and the last page, which includes all the Korean names of the different layers, shows the little girl beautifully dressed, from head to toe: her year-old self ready to bow to her ancestors and to go wish everyone good luck in the New Year.
Children will delight in holding this one in their hands, and learning about the garments' names, layers, and meaning.