Get To Know The Korean Holidays

people wearing hanbok for the korean holidays

The Hallyu movement has been sweeping the globe by storm. Ever-present is the rising popularity of k-pop, k-dramas and Korean culture as a whole. 

If you're looking to learn more about Korean culture as you take a deep dive into all things Korean, start with this guide to get to know all of the Korean holidays. 

Come learn about the Korean holidays and how Koreans celebrate them!

Get To Know The Korean Holidays

New Year’s Day

New Year's Day is known as Sinjeong(신정) in Korea. Koreans celebrate on the first day of the solar calendar, January 1, just like westerners.  

On New Year's Eve in Korea, family and friends gather to watch the elaborate fireworks show held annually to bring in the New Year. Many will also watch the first sunrise of the year together at a sunrise festival

Korean New Year

Korean New Year is known as Seollal(설날) or Korean Lunar New Year. It is a three-day celebration that starts on the first day of the first month of the lunar new year.

For many Koreans, Lunar New Year is arguably more important than the regular New Year. 

During Lunar New Year in Korea, you can find people celebrating by spending time with their family and friends, partaking in sacred ceremonies and rituals, and eating lots of traditional yummy food 

The most common thing you'll see on Lunar New Year is the Korean culture tradition of sebae(세배). Sebae is when you wear traditional Korean clothing, Hanbok, kneel on the ground and bow deeply to your elders as you wish them a happy new year. This sign of respect usually earns you a gift of money inside a tiny envelope from your elders. 

The food most associated with Lunar New Year in Korea is tteokguk(떡국) or rice cake soup. It is said that the act of eating tteokguk turns you one year older during Lunar New Year.

Check out the Daebak New Year page for some exclusive Lunar New Years goodies that you can't find anywhere else!

Daeborum

Daeborum Fire Festival
Photo Courtesy of Haps Magazine Korea​​

Daeborum(대보름) is known as the Great Full Moon Festival. This festival celebrates the first full moon of the year after the Korean New Year. Koreans celebrate on the 15th day of the lunar new year, usually in February.  

Koreans celebrate Daeborum by hiking up mountains to have the best view of the full moon, lighting lanterns, and participating in fire festivals in which they practice the tradition of daljiptaeugi(달집태우기), setting daljips(달집) or bonfires aflame.  

Traditional foods eaten during Daeboreum are ogokbap(오곡밥) a five-grain rice, assorted nuts known as bureom(부럼), a wine said to improve one's hearing called gwibalgisul(귀밝이술), injeolmi(인절미) a chew rice cakes covered in powder soybean, and yaksik(약식) a glutinous rice mixed with dried fruits, nuts and honey, served in a cake. 

Independence Movement Day

Independence Movement Day is known as Samiljeol(삼일 운동). It takes place on March 1.  

This holiday is in direct remembrance of some of the earliest displays of Korean resistance that would play a huge part in Korea's journey to independence from Japan.  

Koreans celebrate with some of the usual happenings of holidays in Korea: taegeukgi flags hung from every building, parades, exhibitions in museums, and even concerts. You can also catch the reading of the Korean Declaration of Independence from 1919 in Seoul's Pagoda Park. 

Presidential Election Day

Presidential Election Day is known as Seongeonal(선거날) and comes on March 9. 

People in South Korea will elect a new president every five years for a single five-year term. 

It's a day to encourage everyone who can vote to get out and vote for their preferred candidate that aligns with their ideas and values. 

Arbor Day

Arbor Day is known as Sikmogil(식목일). Koreans celebrate Sikmogil on April 5.  

Although the holiday lost its official status as a holiday in 2006, people still participate in the holiday by planting a tree or another type of vegetation. 

Arbor day is a reminder to respect and appreciate nature, as well as a reminder to take better care of our planet. 

Labour Day

South Korea celebrates Labour Day(노동절) on May 1. 

The holiday honors the labor movement's achievements and recognizes the impact on the nation's working people.

Children’s Day

Children's Day is known as Eorininal(어린이날) and is celebrated on May 5. This holiday was founded by the Korean children's book writer Pang Chonghwan to instill confidence, pride, and independence.

Outdoor activities are usually planned for kids to enjoy and receive small gifts. There are also parades, taekwondo demonstrations, and traditional games that any kid would get, wrapping up into play because it was so fun.

Buddha’s Birthday

Buddha's Birthday is known as Bucheonnim Osinnal(부처님 오신 날). Korean celebrate Bucheonnim Osinnal on the first full moon of the sixth month of the Buddhist calendar.  

Flocks of people head up to the Buddhist temples all over Korea decorated with Buddhist flags and lanterns while making offerings. You'll surely come across a parade or street fair near the temple.  

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is known as Hyeonchung-il(현충일) and is observed on June 6.  

Memorial Day in Korea remembers and honors all service members who paid the ultimate price when they decided to fight for their own country. 

Constitution Day

Constitution Day is known as Jeheonjeol(제헌절) and is celebrated on July 17. 

On July 17, 1948, the constitution of the Republic of Korea was created. This date was purposely chosen for the celebratory holiday to match the founding date of the Joseon dynasty. 

As of 2008, it is no longer considered a public holiday where everyone is off from school and school. 

Taegukgi flags are still hung up all over cities on this day and a ceremony is held at the National Assembly building. 

Chilseok

Chilseok(칠석) falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Lunar Calendar, so its date of celebration will change from year to year. In 2022, Chilseoek will fall on August 4.

Also referred to as The Traditional Korean Valentine's Day, you can think of Chilseok as a Romeo and Juliet holiday. 

It's common to celebrate Chilseok by taking a bath and eating wheat-based foods. 

Liberation Day

Liberation Day is known as Gwangbokjeol(광복절) and is celebrated on Augst 15. 

Liberation Day and the Korean Independence Movement are often used interchangeably but are two very different hard.

Korean Liberation Day was when Korea was free from Japanese imperialism after being under their rule for 35 years. 

Chuseok

Chuseok(추석), referred to as Korean Thanksgiving, is celebrated as the mid-autumn harvest festival. 

Chuseok is a holiday to connect with family on a different level and to honor and be grateful for our ancestors and the bountiful harvest they are said to bring. It involves preparing food or jaesa(제사)

 as ancestral rites to show respect and appreciation for your neighbors.


One food eaten during Chuseok is Songpyen(송편), a pine needle-filled rice cake that is supposed to represent the moon.


In a giving mood this harvest festival? Check out Chuseok gift-giving guide for all your harvest festival needs.

Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day is known as 국군의 날. 

Celebrated on October 1, Armed Forces Day is a day to pay homage to the service of the many brave men and women who are a part of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces.  

It's celebrated on this day because, in 1950, the Republic of Korea Armed Forces invaded North Korea by breaking through the 38th parallel border during the war. 

Sea and air drills are done on this day as a demonstration and show of force. A military parade and ceremony are held where the Korean president is usually in attendance. 

National Foundation Day

National Foundation Day is known as Gaecheonjeol(개천절) and is celebrated on the 3rd day of the 10th lunar month.  

The holiday is celebrated in commemoration of the founding of the first organized Korean kingdom, the Gojoseon Dynasty.

On National Foundation Day, you can find people sitting at home and burning sandalwood incense to worship the founder of Korea, Dangun. You may see others who go to a parade or go hiking to pay homage to Dangun by visiting where he is said to have descended from heaven before founding the Korean nation. 

Hangul Day

Hangul Day is known as Hangeulnal(한글날) and is celebrated on October 9. 

Hangul Day commemorates the day that Sejong the Great created the Korean alphabet in 1446.

You can find people celebrating this Korean Holiday by visiting the bronze statue of King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul, visiting the King Sejong Memorial Hall, and visiting the Tomb of King Sejong. 

For the next Hangul Day, see if you've mastered the Korean language with a Hanguel board game that you can play to test your knowledge with your friends. 

Halloween

Halloween(할로윈) is celebrated on October 31. Although Halloween is not a national or public holiday in Korea, Koreans love to go all out to celebrate the spooky season.

Halloween in Itaewon is a world-renowned event where people from all over the world flock to the streets of Seoul to hang out with other ghouls and goblins. Halloween in Itaewon was even featured during an episode of the k-drama Itaewon Class

Trick or treating is not a traditional activity for kids on Halloween in Korea.

You will find subways packed with young adults dressed in their Halloween costumes, eager to see where the night will take them.

You can get a quick gory makeup makeover to compliment your costume from one of the many makeshift vanities set up on the side of the street. You can find The Daebak Company's latest Halloween goods here!

When you're done, follow the large crowds of people flooding the streets and you'll end up at one of the fun dance clubs that are decorated for the occasion and feature drinks that will leave you having a hauntingly good time all night. 

If you're not into dancing the night away at one of Seoul's nightclubs, you can go to one of the amusement parks like Lotte World to experience haunted house attractions, zombie parades, and spooky performances.

Christmas

While Christmas does have a Korean word for the holiday, Gidoktansinil(기독탄신일), you will often hear people who just call it Christmas(크리스마스). 

Christmas in Korea is more commonly celebrated between couples unlike other parts of the world where celebrating Christmas is a family affair. 

Beyond the typical Korean dishes of bulgogi, kimchi, and rice cake soup that you may find on the dinner table, it is also quite common for Koreans to partake in KFC for their Christmas dinner meal.

Daebak's holiday gift guide has so many choices to choose from when picking out holiday gifts for your loved ones this holiday season. Daebak's Christmas market has something for everyone so you can start checking them off your list early. 

Korea has a rich history; one can experience different aspects of Korean culture by learning about the Korean holidays.

While you're planning your next trip to Korea with the help of The Daebak Company's Best Times to Visit Korea guide, see if you'll be visiting during one of the Korean holidays so you can get immersed into Korean culture for a one-of-a-kind experience. 

Which Korean holiday interests you the most? Let us know in the comments, and read up on some more Korean holidays below. 

 

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