K-Lifestyle Wiki

National Holidays

Festivals

Until the mid-20th century, Korea was primarily an agricultural society, and the seasonal rhythms of daily life were organized by the lunar calendar.
As a society where farming was hugely important for the subsistence of its members, it developed a great variety of semi-religious events where prayers were offered for a good harvest and abundant food, and which gradually developed into communal celebrations and festivals.
The Lunar New Year’s Day (Seol or Seollal), which is generally regarded as the most important of all the traditional seasonal festivals, is celebrated with a special festival food called tteokguk, or “rice flake soup”. Eating it signified becoming one year older (this means that a child born on the 29th of the twelfth lunar month becomes two years old only two days later). The festival is also related with the ceremony of performing the Sebae (New Year’s Bow) before the elders of one’s family and neighborhood. After Sebae, the elders present New Year’s gift money to their juniors.
Another important seasonal festival called Daeboreum (Greater Full Moon) celebrates the fifteenth day of the first month of the year by the lunar calendar. On that day, people eat special festival food called ogokbap, a dish made with five grains and served with an assortment of cooked vegetables, play games aimed for the unity of the local community and perform rituals for good harvest.
Chuseok, which is held on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, consists of thanksgiving services in which newly harvested crops and fruits are offered to the ancestral spirits. Generally held to be as important as the Lunar New Year’s Day, Chuseok is all the family members gather together and hold a ritual with newly harvested crops and fruits to give thanks to their ancestors and to nature. As it falls in the harvest season, a time of abundance, there is even a saying, “Not more, not less. Just be like Hangawi (‘Hangawi’ being another name for Chuseok).”

Celebrations

Korean parents mark the one-hundredth day anniversary (baegil) and the first birthday (dol) of their baby with special big celebrations in which their families, relatives and friends participate. They generally hold a large celebratory banquet for their baby with a ritual prayer for the baby’s health, success in life, and longevity, and the participants give the baby gold rings as a special gift.
Weddings have also been a very important family celebration in Korea. Most Korean people today choose their own spouse according to their heart’s desire.
In the past, a wedding ceremony in Korea was more like a village festival. Families, relatives, and villagers would gather together to celebrate the couple. The groom wore samogwandae, a traditional attire for court officials, and the bride was dressed in a lavishly embroidered bridal robe, such as hwarot or wonsam, and a bejeweled headdress or a coronet named jokduri.
Today, the Western style of wedding ceremony is widely regarded as the norm, but some traditional rituals such as Pyebaek (traditional ceremony to pay respect to the groom’s family by the newly-wedded couple right after their wedding) and Ibaji (wedding food that the bride presents to the groom’s family) are still maintained.
In Korea, babies are one year old as soon as they are born, taking into consideration the period while they are in their mother’s womb. A person’s 60th birthday used to be celebrated with a grand party as his age was regarded as enough to have experienced all the principles of heaven and earth. However, today, when the average life expectancy of South Koreans is more than 80 year, people celebrate their 70th birthday in such a grand manner rather than their 60th birthday.

National Holidays

In Korea there are five national holidays designated by the government: Independence Movement Day (Samiljeol, March 1), which commemorates the March First Movement, one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance against the Japanese occupation of Korea, and the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea in 1948; Liberation Day (Gwangbokjeol, August 15), celebrating national liberation from Imperial Japan in 1945; National Foundation Day, which marks the foundation of Gojoseon, the first state of the Korean nation, on the 3rd day of 10th lunar month, 2333 BCE; and Hangeul Day (Hangeullal, October 9), which commemorates the invention and proclamation of the Korean writing system.

Public Holidays

The public holidays during which work is suspended by law in Korea include New Year’s Day, Seollal (or Lunar New Year’s Day, celebrated for 3 days), Chuseok (Mid-autumn Festival on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, celebrated for 3 days), Buddha’s Birthday (on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month), Children’s Day (May 5), Memorial Day (June 6) and Christmas Day. There are fifteen public holidays in total on which businesses are closed by law and employees have a day off, from which Constitution Day is excluded.

Public Holidays in Korea
Jan. 1New year’s DayThe first day of the year.
Jan. 1
(Lunar Calendar)
SeollalThe first day of the year by the lunar calendar. Three day celebration.
Mar. 1Independence Movement DayCommemorates the March First Movement, non-violent public resistance against the Japanese colonial rule, and the declaration of Korean Independence Movement in 1919.
Apr. 8
(Lunar Calendar)
Buddha’s BirthdayCelebrates the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha.
A variety of celebratory events are held in Buddhist temples across Korea.
May. 5Children’s DayOn this day, which was designated to raise awareness of love for children, various events that parents and kids can enjoy together are held across the country.
Jun. 6Memorial DayA national memorial service is held at the National Cemetery to honor and commemorate the achievements of war heroes and veterans.
Aug. 15Liberation DayCelebrates the 1945 liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule.
Aug. 15
(Lunar Calendar)
ChuseokKnown by different names such as Chuseok and Hangawi, this seasonal festival on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month brings families together for memorial services for their ancestors and celebratory events.
Oct. 3National Foundation DayCommemorates the foundation of Gojoseon, the first Korean state, by Dangun in 2333 BCE.
Oct. 9Hangeul DayA day to commemorate King Sejong’s promulgation of Hunminjeongeum (The Hangeul Manuscript) and promote the research and dissemination of hangeul.
Dec. 25ChristmasCelebrates the birth of Jesus Christ with a great variety of religious and secular events.

Source: Korean Culture and Information Service 'Facts about Korea'

Image source: Korea Open Government License

ReplyPlease leave a comment about any information you wanted to add!
Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

Popularly famed as Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival, this is one of the oldest festivals in Korea, that showcases the country’s traditions and culture. The native people lit thousands of red lanterns by the bank of Nam River and make wishes for the well-being, health, and prosperity of their near and dear ones. The custom started way back in 1592, iconizing with the custom of lighting lanterns to avoid Japanese troops from commuting the Namgang River during the Japanese invasion period. Hence these lanterns also pay tribute to the Jinjuseong Fortress Battle veterans. Along with the surreal sight of innumerable lit lanterns, one can enjoy the street parades, performances, local street food and even make their own lantern and hang them in the Tunnel Of Wish Lanterns.

Diana Gabaldon
3 months ago

Seollal is coming up right? Lunar year is still very hard for me, without lunar calendar I have no idea which date is which with lunar year haha lol😬

Rebeka Salas
3 months ago

Hangeul (Hangul) Day is also known as Korean Alphabet Day. This day celebrates the creation and the proclamation of the Korean Alphabet. Hangeul was established by King Sejong the Great in the 9th month of the lunar calendar in 1447. Established in 1945 as a national holiday, Hangeul Day was legally removed as a national holiday in 1991 but remained a national commemoration day. As of 2013, Hangeul Day has regained its status as a national holiday. Exhibitions, festivals, and contests highlighting the alphabet and its usesare held around the country.

Rebeka Salas
3 months ago

With a large Christian population, Christmas Day has become an important celebration in the ROK. Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, so many believers attend church and hold religious observations. For many Koreans, though, it is a secular and romantic holiday when couples go on dates and families enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Seokjin Lover
3 months ago

Children’s writer and social activist Bang Jeong-hwan proclaimed the first Children’s Day in Korea in 1923. Since then, May 5 has been a day of celebration that honors children of all ages. Amusement parks, zoos, and national parks are crowded with families on this day.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

On Memorial Day, there is a special ceremony held at Seoul’s national cemetery. It begins at 10am with the ringing of a siren of remembrance. This siren is broadcast across the whole country and is meant to be a time or prayer and reflection and mourning. All day on Memorial Day, the Korean flag is flown at half-mast.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

The Korean War was the first war in which a world organization, the United Nations (UN), played a military role and a major challenge for the United Nations, which had come into existence only five years earlier. Across South Korea, officials and citizens will pray and lay flowers at the graves of the war dead. It is common practice to display the flag of South Korea on the front doors of homes to commemorate the civilians and soldiers who died in war. In 1956, South Korea held its first memorial ceremony for soldiers who died in the Korean War. Memorial Day was declared a public holiday on April 19th 1956, just three years after the war ended.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

The Korean War began on June 25th 1950, when troops from Communist-ruled North Korea invaded South Korea. There was a boycott of the United Nations by the Soviet Union at the time, and therefore, no veto, which allowed the UN to intervene when it became apparent that the superior North Korean forces would easily take over the entire country. The Soviets and the Chinese backed North Korea, with the participation of millions of Chinese troops. After large advances on both sides, the war eventually reached a stalemate. The 1953 armistice, never signed by South Korea, split the peninsula along the demilitarized zone near the original demarcation line.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

When is Memorial Day? Memorial Day is a public holiday in South Korea on June 6th. It commemorates those who died during the Korean War and other conflicts.

Willy Liman
3 months ago

#Fact22 Christmas buffets are popular in Seoul, and many residents reserve their tables well in advance of the holiday. It's possible to find everything from traditional roasted turkey to sushi and crab legs at Christmas buffets. Many younger people celebrate and party on Christmas with friends and spend New Year's Day with their families (the reverse to Christmas/New Year's in the West). For non-Christian Koreans, Christmas is a popular shopping day.