One of the most developed Asian countries, South Korea is certainly alluring to foreigners. Thanks to its thriving economy, moving there might not be a bad idea at all. But if you plan to work in South Korea, you’ll need to adapt to new public holidays. South Korea observes a total of 13 holidays. Although the country has adopted the Gregorian calendar, many of its holidays follow the old one. As a result, some of these holidays fall on different dates each year.
Most of these holidays are national, celebrating important events from South Korea’s history. Others are cultural, honoring the country’s long-established traditions. Of all these holidays, only two are truly religious.
But what they all share is that you don’t have to work these days. While it’s always nice to have some time off, don’t forget to include these holidays when you calculate your yearly income.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to 13 South Korean holidays when you shouldn’t work.
13 South Korean Holidays you should know about
Though South Korea observes 13 public holidays annually, some are more important than others. For instance, New Year’s Day isn’t as important in South Korea as the lunar New Year’s Day. Other important holidays are cultural ones because South Koreans are a very patriotic nation.
Lunar New Year’s Day
Derived from Chinese traditions, South Koreans call this day Seollal. Over time, it became one of the most important traditional holidays in South Korea. People celebrate the beginning of a new Lunar year by preparing Tteokguk, a traditional rice cake soup. This public holiday is based on the lunar calendar, which follows the moon’s phases. As a result, it falls on a different day every year.
Koreans spend Seollal with their families. They also honor their ancestors on this day and pray for those to them. Lunar New Year’s Day is far more important in South Korea than the 1st of January. This is because the lunar calendar has more historical value to this nation.
Also known as Korean Thanksgiving Day, this is one of the most important public holidays in the country. Chuseok lasts three days and starts on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month. Much like Seollal, it also falls on a different day each year. Korean families get together on this day to celebrate the harvest season.
Most public institutions don’t operate on this day. Traffic is often bad during this time because many Koreans travel to visit their families. Chuseok is often accompanied by games, dancing, and wrestling.
Literally Great Full Moon, Daeboreum celebrates the first full moon of the new year according to the lunar calendar. Its date isn’t fixed since it doesn’t follow the Gregorian calendar.
Daeboreum is very important to Koreans. Family members gather together and practice many traditions. For instance, they crack nuts with their teeth, which should make their teeth healthy for the entire year. Some also visit the countryside and climb mountains despite the cold weather. According to tradition, the first person to see the full moon will be blessed with luck for the whole year.
Daeroboreum is marked by many other traditions, though not every family practices them.
Roughly 25% of Koreans are Buddhists. This prompted the government to make Buddha’s Birthday an official Korean public holiday. It falls on the 8th of the 4th lunar month and celebrates the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
Lanterns fill both temples and residential homes on this day. Certain temples also provided free tea and even dishes to visitors on Buddha’s Birthday. Though it is a Buddhist holiday, many non-religious people also celebrate this day.
While most public institutions close down on this day, private businesses often choose to remain open. When Buddha’s birthday falls on a weekend, the public holiday is moved to a substitute weekday.
South Korea is a large melting pot of different cultures. About one-third of its population are Christians. As a result, the Korean government made Christmas Day an official public holiday. It falls on the 25th of December and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
Many citizens decorate their properties week in advance. As Christmas becomes more and more commercialized, you can also see these decorations in department stores and other public places.
When Christmas Day falls on a weekend, it’s moved to the next Monday.
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day falls on the 1st of January. While it may be a public holiday, it’s not as important as the lunar New Year’s Day in Korea. This is because South Korea didn’t originally use the Gregorian Calendar.
March 1st Movement (Samil Movement)
March 1st Movement commemorates the independence movement of the people of Korea. At the time, people wished to gain freedom from Japan. These movements were all brutally suppressed, however. March 1st Movement commemorates those who perished in the fight for freedom.
This public holiday falls on the 5th of May. As the name suggests, it celebrates children, who represent the future. It is the day when parents get to spend time with their children.
Since it happens in May, many families choose to spend it outside. Some popular activities include mountain hiking, picnicking, and watching parades. Amusement parks and zoos are also quite busy on this day.
Memorial Day or Hyunchungil commemorates the soldiers who perished while serving their country. It falls on the 6th of June.
Military veterans hold parades in large cities to pay respects to the fallen. Both important government figures and ordinary citizens hold silent prayers on this day. If it falls on a weekend, it’s moved to the next Monday.
Constitution Day (Jeheonjeol)
Constitution Day commemorates the proclamation of the South Korean constitution in 1948. It falls on the 17th of July every year.
The day is marked by many speeches from government officials. Other unique activities include marathons.
National Liberation Day of Korea
This Korean public holiday commemorates the end of the 35-year-long Japanese occupation of Korea. It falls on the 15th of August when Japan surrendered and Korea gained independence. Most business function normally on this day.
National Foundation Day
Also known as Gaecheonjeol, the public holiday falls on the 3rd of October. On this day, Koreans cherish their history. The day commemorates the birth of the Gojoseon kingdom in 2333 BC, which was the first Korean kingdom in history. While public institutions are closed on this day, private businesses operate normally.
Koreans celebrate this official holiday on the 9th of October. It commemorates the day when the Korean Alphabet proclamation came to be. It’s often marked by exhibitions, festivals, and writing contests. Most businesses function generally on this day.
FAQ about the South Korean holidays
What are the major holidays in South Korea?
New Year’s Day, Lunar New Year’s Day, Independence Movement Day, Children’s Day, Buddha’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Liberation Day, Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), National Foundation Day, and Christmas are only a few of the country’s public holidays.
How is Lunar New Year celebrated in South Korea?
The Lunar New Year, also known as Seollal, is a significant festival celebrated by families in South Korea. At this time, people play traditional games, honour ancestors, and feast on traditional dishes like rice cakes and dumplings. Also, it is usual to dress in hanbok, or traditional Korean clothes.
What is Chuseok and how is it celebrated?
A three-day celebration known as Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, brings families together to honour ancestors and enjoy a feast of traditional foods like rice cakes, fruits, and meat. Many Koreans also take part in cultural practises including performing the Ganggangsullae dance and visiting their ancestral homes.
What is the meaning behind Children’s Day in South Korea?
Children’s Day is a recognised national holiday in South Korea that honours kids’ joy and wellbeing. Parents offer gifts to their kids and take them on outings to theme parks, zoos, or museums on this day. It’s a day devoted to making memorable experiences for kids and expressing our love and gratitude to them.
What are some traditional customs associated with the Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok?
Seongmyo, a ritual in which families visit ancestor graves to pay homage to their ancestors while cleaning and decorating the graves, is one of the traditional practises connected to Chuseok. Making songpyeon, a kind of rice cake with a half-moon shape and fillings for either sweet or savoury purposes, is another well-liked activity.
How is Buddha’s Birthday celebrated in South Korea?
In South Korea, Seokga Tansinil, also known as Buddha’s Birthday, is observed on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. Many Koreans go to Buddhist temples to give prayers, build lanterns, and take in traditional performances as well as colourful parades with enormous lanterns.
What are some traditional foods eaten during Korean holidays?
Traditional Korean delicacies, such as rice cakes (tteok), dumplings (mandu), and pancakes, are frequently connected with special occasions (jeon). Other well-liked foods include japchae, galbi (short ribs), and bulgogi (grilled marinated meat) (stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables).
How do Koreans celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
Although though these are not traditional Korean holidays, many Koreans nonetheless exchange gifts, eat celebratory feasts, and watch fireworks on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Couples frequently go on romantic dates, while friends frequently get together for parties.
What are the popular destinations for celebrating holidays in South Korea?
Jeju Island, Gyeongju, Busan, and Seoul are a few of South Korea’s most well-liked holiday vacation spots. Visitors can take part in a wide range of cultural experiences, customs, and festive occasions in these locations.
Are businesses and schools closed during holidays in South Korea?
True, save for a few critical services, businesses and schools in South Korea are normally closed on national holidays. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to inquire about specific holiday schedules with individual companies and schools.
Our final thoughts on the South Korean holidays
Public holidays in South Korea are a mixture of international, historical, and religious special days. Most of them were established as a tribute to important events from the country’s past. Less than a century ago, South Korea went through a 35-year-old Japanese occupation. The citizens still remember this, and it makes their pride in their country even stronger.
The religious holiday focus on Christian and Buddhist beliefs. Other public holidays are international, such as Children’s Day or New Year’s Day. The rest celebrate the country’s culture and traditions.
If you liked this article about South Korean holidays, you should check out this one on how many working days there are in a year.
You should also check out these other articles of ours about public holidays in Japan, French holidays, Singapore public holidays, New Zealand holidays, and also public holidays in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US.