Life and Seoul

Festivals & Holidays

Korea likes an excuse to celebrate the good times. With a total of 2 festivals and 8 national holiday days, spaced rather evenly across the year, the chances are you might be able to witness something unique during your stay. Below are brief descriptions of each national holiday, with links to more in-depth features elsewhere on this site (See bottom for holiday dates for the next few years).

New Year’s Day (Gregorian Calendar) – Not particularly traditional in Korea, nor is it widely observed outside of the major cities, but there are normally new year’s eve events in the centre of Seoul around Jongno to welcome in the new year.

Seolal (New Year’s – Lunar Calendar) – The first lunar calendar holiday of the year welcomes in the new year according the the moon’s fluctuations. As such the date of this festival changes from one year to the next, but often falls in February or late January.

March 1st Movement – Literally the Three-One Movement (March 1st), this daycelebrates one of the most significant early public displays of a will for independence from Japanese colonial rule. The protests were sparked by the public reading of an unofficial declaration for independence. Protests were brutally quashed by Japanese forces.

Labor Day – Not actaully an official national holiday, but it is often enjoyed by many as a day off from work; which is only fair given how hard people in Korea seem to work.

Children’s Day – A day for the children, naturally. There are lots of kid oriented fun and special events on this day.

Buddha’s Birthday – Colourful lotus lanterns line the streets in the month preceding this event. Temples are especially resplendent. Often temples will offer free food or tea to people on Buddha’s birthday. Often marked by parades in the evening.

Memorial Day – Held every year on June 6th to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting during the Korean War, as well as other key wars in which Korea has been involved. The main memorial ceremony takes place at Seoul’s National Cemetary.

Liberation Day – Freedom in Korea at last, following the Japanese acceptance of Korea’s terms of surrender in 1945.

Chuseok – Also known as the harvest moon festival, this is the last of the three lunar calendar holidays in Korea. It is a time, like Christmas in the West, where everyone aims to get home and spend time with family and loved ones.

Kae Chun Jul (National Foundation Day) – Supposedly, Korea was founded in 2333BC by Dangun, a God-king. This day commemorates that.

Christmas Day – As with the Gregorian version of New Year’s, Christmas is not universally celebrated, as it has little religious or spiritual meaning to roughly 80% of Koreans.

Korean public holiday calendar 2011-2014

2011:

Christmas Day – December 25th

2012:

New Year’s Day (Gregorian Calendar) – January 1st

Seolal (New Year’s – Lunar Calendar) – January 22nd-24th

March 1st Movement – March 1st

Labor Day – May 1st

Children’s Day – May 5th

Buddha’s Birthday – May 28th

Memorial Day – June 6th

Liberation Day – August 15th

Chuseok – September 29th-October 1st

National Foundation Day – October 3rd

Christmas Day – December 25th

2013:

New Year’s Day (Gregorian Calendar) – January 1st

Seolal (New Year’s – Lunar Calendar) – February 9th-11th

March 1st Movement – March 1st

Labor Day – May 1st

Children’s Day- May 5th

Buddha’s Birthday – May 17th

Memorial Day – June 6th

Liberation Day – August 15th

Chuseok – September 18th-20th

National Foundation Day – October 3rd

Christmas Day – 25th December

2014:

New Year’s Day (Gregorian Calendar) – January 1st

Seolal (New Year’s – Lunar Calendar) – January 30th-February 1st

March 1st Movement – March 1st

Labor Day – May 1st

Children’s Day – May 5th

Buddha’s Birthday – May 6th

Memorial Day – June 6th

Liberation Day – August 15th

Chuseok – September 7th-9th

National Foundation Day – October 3rd

Christmas Day – December 25th

2015:

New Year’s Day (Gregorian Calendar) – January 1st

Seolal (New Year’s – Lunar Calendar) – February 18th-20th

March 1st Movement – March 1st

Labor Day – May 1st

Children’s Day – May 5th

Buddha’s Birthday – May 25th

Memorial Day – June 6th

Liberation Day – August 15th

Chuseok – September 26th-28th

National Foundation Day – October 3rd

Christmas Day – December 25th

It is worth planning your trip to coincide with one of these events, but be warned, during the lunar holidays especially, accommodation can get booked up months in advance, so be sure to reserve in good time. See here for more information on that.

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