National Holidays and Festivals in South Korea
Koreans follow the Gregorian calendar, although some festivities, the most traditional and rooted in Korean culture, follow the lunar calendar. During official public holidays bank and offices are closed, but department stores, most restaurants, museums, palaces and amusement parks are open. Below we list some of the most popular Korean public and national holidays. In general, festivities that follow the Gregorian calendar are held on the same day every year, while the festivals based on the lunar calendar are held on different dates every year.
Solar New Year
The first day of the solar New Year.
Seollal, or Lunar New Year, is held on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar, plus the day before and after. Seollal is, together with Chuseok, one of the most important Korean national holidays; it lasts three days during which Koreans visit their families, eat special food for this festival (ttokguk and manduguk) and play traditional games or fly kites. During Seollal Korean families also hold memorial ceremonies to remember their ancestors and perform a special bow to their elders, called sebae.
Independence Movement Day
This Korean national holiday commemorates the declaration of independence, which took place on the first of March 1919. The declaration is read during a ceremony held in Tapgok Park, Seoul.
Labour Day is not a national holiday in Korea, but many banks and offices are closed on the 1st of May.
This day is dedicated to all Korean children, who have a day off and their parents take them to amusement parks, zoos or other places of interest.
Buddha’s birthday (Seokka Tanshin-il) is celebrated on the 8th day of 4th lunar month. In occasion of this festival, ceremonies are held in Buddhist temples all over Korea and colourful lanterns are hung in the temples’ courtyards. The Sunday before Buddha’s birthday, these lanterns are lit and taken around the streets during parades.
This Korean national holiday is dedicated to those people who died for their country, and a special ceremony is held at the National Cemetery in Seoul.
This is a public holiday to commemorate the Korean constitution, which was proclaimed on the 17th of July 1948.
This national holiday commemorates the day when Japan surrendered to the allied forces and Korea was liberated.
Chuseok (Harvest Moon Festival), also referred to as Korean Thanksgiving Day, is held on the 14-16th days of the eight-month of the lunar calendar. Chuseok celebrates the harvest and is a thanksgiving for the earth’s products. During this festivity Koreans visit their ancestral homes and perform ceremonies.
National Foundation Day is a public holiday that commemorates the foundation of the Korean nation in 2333 BC, by the legendary god-king Dangun. A ceremony is performed on top of Mount Manisan, in the Ganghwado province.
Christmas Day – 25th of December
Christmas is a national holiday in Korea, as about 25% of South Korea’s population is Christian. However, the 26th of December, or Boxing Day, is not a public holiday in Korea.