South Korea which occupies approximately the southern half of Korean Peninsula in East Asia has captivated great influx of visitors around the globe. Before the 17th Asian Games 2014 which was held in Incheon, one of the major cities in South Korea, this place has been already known as a good venue for travelers who are in search for unique culture and tradition that has spawned after several Korean dynasties.
The hosting of the 17th Asian Games not only proved the country’s economic and political capability but pronounces a safe and welcoming environment to travel, do business or spend a vacation. Like any other countries, South Korea has also official holidays which are distinct opportunities for visitors to savor a different experience and witness how the country established a distinguished recognition in the world.
Below are the lists of South Korea’s public holidays:
New Year’s Day – January 1, Thursday
Regardless of culture or tradition, counties across the world are celebrating the New Year’s Day which marks the start of the Gregorian calendar. In South Korea, people are celebrating generally at midnight, between the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with fireworks display and family gatherings. Children are often receiving gifts from elders. Sparkling wine, various Korean delicacies on the table and wearing of new dresses are some of the country’s old traditions. People are also having resolutions with the belief to face the New Year with a renewed and better living.
Seollal or Korean New Year – February 18-20, Wednesday-Friday
The Korean New Year is traditionally celebrated in three days: the day before, the day itself and the day after the Korean New Year. This is the most important holiday in the country which basically gives focus on family bonding. This also marks the beginning of the Chinese calendar. Fire crackers, champagne, foods, luck money placed in red envelopes and offerings to deities are common observances anywhere in the place. Most people observe the tradition of wearing red, participation in dragon dances along with clashing cymbals and beating of gongs. A few days of celebration also include festival parades and attractive lanterns which decorate the streets with colors and vibrancy.
Independence Movement Day – March 1, Sunday
Originally known as the “Samil Independence Movement” or the “March First Movement”, this day on the year 1919 marked the independence of Korea from the regressive Japanese empire. This is also called by some as the Bloody History of the Korean Independence Movement because during this day that millions of Koreans participated in demonstrations, thousands were killed and wounded. Koreans are commemorating this important holiday through re-enactments of the events that took place during the day they fought for their independence as well as the flying of their flags. Various campaigns are also done to raise awareness on the younger generations about the importance of their independence such as slogan and poster making contests.
Labor Day – May 1, Sunday
The start of the spring season is also a day to celebrate among workers. Across the globe, Labor Day is celebrated similarly with various activities like in South Korea which includes holding parades while there are demonstrations for some unions. Overall, this is the day where workers are given importance and are provided resting day.
Children’s Day – May 5, Thursday
This celebration is also commemorated in many countries around the world. This is to protect the well-being of children globally. In South Korea, they rejoice this day through giving of gifts to children as a way of showing them love, care and value. Traditional games are also encouraged to be played by the children. Theaters, amusement parks, zoos and museums are offering free admissions for children. Also, public activities are prepared as well as civic parades.
Buddha’s Birthday – May 25, Monday
Although there is much confusion as to the real birth date of the prince Buddha, Buddhist people in South Korea are celebrating this significant day to honor the birth and enlightenment of Buddha. Lantern parades or festival are done during this day. Evening parade is also done in some parts of the country like Seoul.
Memorial Day – June 6, Saturday
This day pays honor to the patriotic deeds of military men and women of Korea who fought during the Korean War and other battles. People usually give importance to this day through visiting and laying down flowers on the graves of the dead during the war. Also, officials and civilians hold programs to commemorate the bravery and nationalism of their war heroes. Korean flags are likewise displayed on front doors of their homes.
Constitution Day – July 17, Friday
The First assembly of Korea was done on July 17, 948 where the first constitution was declared and formally adopted. Not much festivity is done during this day. One of the most common activities done is the marathon where Koreans run in long distance race to show their respect and solidarity.
Mid-Autumn Festival – September 26-29, Saturday-Tuesday
Also known as the “Thanksgiving Day”, this 3-day festivity is more ceremonious than the Spring Festival. The common tradition of Korean people is the giving of gifts to their loved ones: relatives or friends. This is also the time for family get together where they gather together for a feast and ceremonies for ancestors are also done. Women usually wear colorful dresses and the family dance together under the brilliant light of the moon. The sweeping of their ancestors’ tombs are also done on this day. Thanksgiving ceremonies are likewise observed for bountiful harvest.
National Foundation Day – October 3, Saturday
For many Koreans, this day is called Gaecheonjeol which means the “day of the opening of heaven” where they believed that the Supreme Divine regent came down from heaven to live with humans. This day embarks the creation of the state of ancient Korea known as Gojoseon and is one of the most significant events in the Korean history. Street parades and other civic activities are done to commemorate this important event.
Hangeul Proclamation day – October 9, Friday
The monarch Sejong the Great of the 15th century has proclaimed the native Korean alphabet. The marking of the Korean alphabet which is used in their native language is very commemorative among Koreans. Commemorative activities are done during this day such as parades, civic programs and hanging of their flags. This day is also an invitation to others that learning Korean language is enjoyable and the celebration is amongst one of their most valuable cultural asset.
Christmas day – December 25, Friday
Like other Christian nations, South Korea’s Christians consider Christmas Day as a significant celebration commemorating the birth of the savior. Many festive activities are observed by Christians in South Korea during this day such as exchanging of presents and family gatherings for midnight festivity. This is considered as a family exclusive affair by most where they take break from work and spend time for families. Churches are attractively decorated where Christmas themed and joyous songs are sung during masses. Children are also given gifts as well as parties are organized in many families and companies or organizations.
Knowing more about Korea is spending time during their holidays. Experience Korea and its holiday celebrations and know how this country is considered unique among the rest of the nations in the world…..
Photo by Damian Bere