Korean holidays are usually based on a solar calendar. However, some holidays like Korea’s New Years Day or Korean Thanks Giving Day follows lunar calendar. The dates of these holidays changes every year. There is a chance that these holidays may overlap with weekends and should this happen, there is additional substitute holidays to compensate the shortened holidays. Also election days are designated as legal holidays. Companies and banks closes on a public holidays but most of the restaurants, department stores and shopping malls are open, so you can enjoy your holidays.
▷ New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)
New Year’s Day is on January 1st, the first day of the year based on the solar calendar. In Korea, we call it ‘Shinjeong'(新正) or Solar New Year’s Day to differentiate from lunar New Year’s Day (Korean New Year’s). In the past, it used to be three days holiday from Jan 1 to 3. After 1989 only Korean New Year’s has been designated as legal holidays and eliminated solar New Year’s Day. People gather to count down the numbers on the last day of the year (Dec. 31st) and make wishes towards the rising sun.
▷ Lunar New Year’s Day (Jan 24-26, Substitute day: Jan 27)
Korean New Years Day or Lunar New Year’s Day is one of the most important holidays in Korea. Most of the people return to their hometown to spend time with their family and relatives. Since many people use cars and trains (KTX: Korea Express Train), there is a fierce competition to get the tickets. It is not hard to guess heavy traffic jams during these period. On the day of Korean New Year’s, Koreans traditionally hold a memorial service for ancestors and bow to relatives who are older than yourself. Generally, elders give New Year’s cash gifts after receiving New Year’s bow. It is also interesting to know that you can grow a year older only if you eat New Year’s rice-cake soup.
▷ March First Movement (March 1)
Also known as Independence movement Day, it is a day to commemorate a nation-wide demonstrations which took place in March 1st, 1919 to protest against Japaneses colonization. The March 1st demonstration triggered many people to come out to the street and have peaceful demonstrations. Thousands were arrested. It is estimated that around 15,000 Koreans were injured and 7,000 were killed. Every households hang the Korean National flag to remember those who fought for the nation and their people.
▷ The Day of Buddha’s Coming (Apr 30)
This day is to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, which is April 8 based on a lunar calendar. Every temples holds ceremonies and there are pretty lanterns hanging in the streets.
▷ Children’s Day (May 5)
The Children’s Day was established on 1923 in hope that we can provide an atmosphere where every children can grow healthy and happily. On this day, children spend the day with their parents and make a happy memories. There are many activities held in the amusement park or museums for children.
▷ Memorial Day (June 6)
Memorial Day was enacted to commemorate those who died fighting for the nation during the war. At National Cemetery, annual memorial is held to commemorate their sacrifice.
▷ National Liberation Day (August 15)
This day is to celebrate victory over Japan when U.S and Soviet forces ended the 35-years-long Japanese occupation of Korea on August 15th, 1945. Interestingly, this is the only Korean public holiday celebrated by both South and North Korea.
▷ Korean Thanksgiving Day (Sept 30-Oct 4)
Korean Thanksgiving day, or Chuseok , is one of the most important holidays in Korea along with Korean New Year’s Day. The actual date is August 15th based on a lunar calendar. It is to celebrate and show gratitude for being able to harvest grains and fruits. Koreans eat rice cake called ‘Songpyeon’ on this day. Songpyeon is a traditional Korean food made of glutinous rice and half-moon shaped. Green soybeans or sesame are used as ingredients for the filling. It is then steamed in a layer of pine needles, giving a fresh scent.
▷ The National Foundation Day of Korea (Oct 3)
Locally called ‘Gaecheonjeol’, ‘Gaecheon'(開天) means ‘Opening of Heaven’. This day is to celebrate the legendary formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon in 2333 BC. According to the Dangun creation myth, Hwanung, the son of God descended to human society and found a bear and a tiger who wished to become human. He gave twenty bulbs of garlic and mugwort and promised them that they will become human if they ate only his garlic and mugwort and stayed in the cave for one hundred days. Only the bear remained for one hundred days, and Hwanung turned the bear to a beautiful woman. The bear who turned to a woman wished for a child, and Hwanung made her his wife and gave a son called Dangun. Dangun later founded Gojoseon.
▷ Hangul Proclamation Day (Oct 9)
Hangul is a Korean alphabet. This day is to commemorate making the invention and the proclamation of Hangul on October 9th 1446 by King Sejong. Before the creation of Hangul, only selected few were learned how to read and write since they had to use traditional Chinese characters. Commoners had no chance of learning the letters, and King Sejong created alphabet so that everyone can learn how to read and write.
▷ Christmas Day(Dec 25)
This day is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. There are amazing display lights decorated in the streets and shops such as department store, which makes people’s heart warm. People buy Christmas cake at the local bakery and spend the day with the loved ones.