Are you ready to say goodbye to 2021? If you're a fan of Koreans' festive celebrations 축하 (chuka), let us learn the important dates in Korean calendar.
As we bid goodbye to a rollercoaster ride we had in the year 2021, we will be welcoming 2022 with lots of hope and inspiration. With lots of issues that happened in South Korea like Covid-19, gender discrimination, violation of rights, and even the "cancel culture," indeed, 2021 has been a tough year for South Koreans. But, aside from the problems and issues, Koreans also managed to succeed in other aspects. For example, their top-rating Korean dramas, the worldwide recognition of Korean actors and idols, and just recently, the awards bagged by BTS in the American Music Awards.
Indeed, there are lots of things to look forward to next year. But, what remains constant is the Koreans' national holidays and celebrations. So, if you're traveling to Korea, make sure to know these important dates in Korean calendar to witness their colorful traditions and culture.
Most of the countries worldwide use the Gregorian calendar, but in Korea, it's different. Just like in most of the east-Asian countries, South Koreans' traditional calendar called the Dangun calendar (단군/ 檀君) is lunisolar. Meaning, it's a combination of both the Lunar Calendar and Solar Calendar.
The Chinese calendar heavily influences Korean calendar. For example, dates are determined by the meridian in Korea, while observances and festivals are based on Korean culture. So, it is essential to learn the difference between Lunar Calendar and Solar Calendar.
The Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely used, is a solar calendar system that originated from a lunar calendar system.
In contrast to solar calendars, which have annual cycles based solely on the solar year, a lunar calendar is based on the monthly cycles of the Moon's phases.
The Gregorian calendar, which was officially adopted in 1896, is widely used in Korea. It is named as Geonyang (건양 / 建陽), which means "adopting solar calendar." However, traditional holidays and age reckoning for older generations continue to be based on the old calendar. The two most important festivals in Korea today, both of which are national holidays, are Seollal, the first day of the traditional Korean New Year, and Chuseok, the harvest moon festival.
A national holiday is a national holiday observed by all citizens of a country. Therefore, if you're in Korea during a national holiday, the whole Korean nation celebrates whatever province our city they are. During the most important traditional holidays in Korea, family members gather to celebrate it as one. They even have food served specifically for these public holidays. So, if you happen to visit Korea during a national holiday, expect a celebration that reflects their cultures and traditions.
Just like other countries, Koreans also have their national holidays and observances that have always been part of their history. But, please note that South Korea is very different from North Korea; that's why there may be national holidays only celebrated in South Korea.
Here are the important dates in Korean calendar that you need to know. These special events will truly reflect their colorful culture and traditions that have been passed through generations. So take note of these holiday dates for the year 2022.
Date: 1 January
On January 1st, the Korean Solar New Year is observed. Koreans do not commemorate (Sinjeong) in the same way that they commemorate (Seollal) or Lunar New Year's Day. However, on the New Year's eve of (Sinjeong), relatives and close friends still come together to greet the new year.
Date: 1 Feb (1st day of 1st lunar month)
The Lunar New Year's Day or 설날 (Seollal) is one of the biggest national holidays and celebrations in South Korea. Koreans have been commemorating (Seollal) since the Silla Kingdom in 488. (Seollal) takes place in late January (or early February) and is timed to coincide with the Moon's monthly cycles. The holiday usually is three days long: the day before, which is spent preparing, the day of the holiday, and the day after.
During 설날 (Seollal), Koreans conduct 차례 (Charye), 세배 (Sebae), and eat 떡국 (Tteokguk). What's interesting about this public holiday is that Koreans age one year during this day, and consuming a bowl of rice cake soup is one of their traditions. Check this blog if you want to know more about the Korean new year and other new year greetings.
Date: 1 March
On March 1st Movement Day, many Koreans visit historic locations such as the Seodamun Prison History Hall or the Korea Independence Hall. It's a day to raise the Korean flag, learn about Korean history, and celebrate the fact that you're Korean.
The Independence Movement Day is definitely one of the most important dates in Korean calendar because the Korean nation's independence has a long history. The Fourteen Points of US President Woodrow Wilson sparked Korean nationalism in the aftermath of World War I. He voiced a desire for self-determination for all national groups worldwide, and Koreans were resentful of Japan's harsh, undemocratic rule at the time.
Date: 5 May
Being a child is definitely one of the best things we have experienced in life. But of course, it is not true for all people as some may have been in bad situations. But, it's nice to have a day intended for the children and celebrate the joy and innocence of a child. That is why Korean people treat Children's Day or 어린이날 (Eorininal) as one of the most important dates in Korean calendar.
Koreans celebrate Children's Day by attending special events in public parks, amusement parks, fairs, zoos, and other venues. Children participate in a variety of traditional games and get gifts from their parents and others. In addition, kids frequently spend time with their parents and have a good time both at home and out.
Date: 8 May (8th day of 4th lunar month)
Buddha's birthday 부처님 오신 날 (Bucheonnim Osinnal), also known as Seokga Tansinil, is a public holiday that is also one of the most important dates in Korean calendar. It is no secret that there are lots of Buddhists in Korea, but surprisingly, it was not until 1975 that 부처님 오신 날 Buddha's Birthday received official public approval.
If you're in Korea, you'll know that Buddha's birthday is coming when you sight lantern festivals all around Korea. Homes and streets are also decorated with lanterns that are lit during nighttime. You wouldn't also want to miss the massive lantern procession in Seoul that takes place on the Saturday before the holiday. The parade involves hundreds of thousands of people carrying lit paper lanterns around the streets for hours.
Aside from attending the Lotus Lantern Festival, many people visit Buddhist temples to receive free tea and a traditional dinner of rice and veggies.
Date: 6 Jun
The Memorial Day 현충일 (Hyeonchung-il) is definitely one of the most important dates in Korean calendar that every Korean should remember. Memorial Day commemorates the estimated 600,000 South Korean Armed Forces who died in the Korean war and other wars. Without these heroes, South Korea would never be where it is right now.
A special ceremony is held at Seoul's national cemetery on Memorial Day. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. with the sound of a memory siren, which indicates that it's time for prayer and mourning. The Seoul National Cemetery hosts the grandest commemoration, and memorial services are held all around the country. Also, the Korean flag is flown at half-mast all day on Memorial Day.
Date: 17 July
July 17 is usually observed as Constitution Day. However, after a change in rules surrounding the public sector's 40-hour workweek, Constitution Day has no longer been a non-working public holiday since 2008. Constitution Day is a national holiday in South Korea that commemorates the adoption of the country's first constitution by the first National Assembly on July 17, 1948.
Let's have a quick throwback. Following the end of World War II and the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonization, the occupation of Allied and Soviet forces split the country in half. In Allied-controlled South Korea, a democratic election for National Assembly members was held in April 1948, which gave birth to a constitution. This constitution was based on a unicameral and presidential system.
Fast forward to August 1948, the Republic of Korea was founded with Syngman Rhee as its first president. Then, Kim Il-sung created the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) on September 9, 1948.
Date: 15 August
One of the most interesting important dates in Korean calendar is the National Liberation Day or 광복절 (Gwangbokjeol). Did you know that the sole holiday that both South Korea and North Korea share is Liberation Day? In South Korea, they call this 광복절 (Gwangbokjeol), which means "the day the light returned" while in North Korea, they call this 조국해방의 날 (Chogukhaebangui), which means, "day of the liberation of the fatherland."
At this celebration, the Gwangbokjeol Song is always sung, which commemorates freedom and its significance. On this day, the government typically grants pardons, and there are numerous cultural and patriotic events held around South Korea. In addition, every year on Liberation Day, a special commemoration service is held, which is attended by South Korea's current president.
Date: 9 Sep
The next among the important dates in Korean calendar is 추석 (Chuseok). The 추석 (Chuseok), literally "Autumn Eve," is one of Korea's grandest traditional holidays. There is an offering ritual to the family ancestors and a visit to family tombs during 추석 (Chuseok). This Korean holiday serves as a reminder that a common fate links families.
For Chuseok, many South Koreans travel to their ancestral hometowns and feast on traditional meals such as songpyeon, a rice cake with a specific stuffing boiled over pine needles, and rice wine. In addition, during Chuseok, Korean pancakes and fresh fruits are very popular.
So, as one of the most important traditional holidays in Korea, many traditions are done during this holiday. On this holiday, ancestor memorial services are commonly held in Korean homes, and people also visit their ancestors' graves. Many people exchange gifts and games. It is customary for people to dress up as cows or turtles in some rural regions and go door to door as part of a musical band.
Date: 3 October
If you're into K-dramas, you'll probably hear about the Kingdom of Gojoseon. So, to look back on the founding of this kingdom, every 3 October, South Korea commemorates National Foundation Day 개천절 (Gaecheonjeol). For a long time, this holiday was an unofficial harvest festival, and it was observed in accord with the Korean lunar calendar. However, it became a national holiday in 1909 and was dated on 3 October from 1949 onwards. This makes it one of the most important dates in Korean calendar.
How do Koreans celebrate National Foundation Day? A special ceremony held at Tangun's mausoleum is the major event of National Foundation Day. It is, in general, a patriotic holiday and a much-appreciated day off for Korean employees. National Foundation Day is a federally recognized holiday. The general public has the day off, and most schools and businesses are closed.
Date: 9 October
Did you know that the Korean language is made to be easy to learn? Surprisingly, the Korean alphabet is really easy to learn. This alphabet is one of the Koreans' identities. In fact, one of the important dates in Korean calendar is Hangeul Day 한글날 (Hangeulnal). Hangeul Day is celebrated on the 9th of October every year in South Korea to honor the development of the Korean script in 1443. This festival is also known as "Korean Language Day."
Date: 25 December
Christmas 기독탄신일 (Gidoktansinil) in Korea is definitely one of the most joyful and brightest holidays in Korea. Even though there are lots of Buddhists in Korea, there is also a large population of Christians who celebrate Christmas Day in Korea. This is the reason why why it is still one of the most important dates in Korean calendar.
Many Asian societies have adopted Christmas in recent decades, but South Korea is one of the few Asian countries where it is an official public holiday. In fact, it is the only East Asian country that observes it as a national holiday.
When you see Santa Claus everywhere, Christmas lights illuminating the streets, and cheap discounts in various shopping centers, you know it's almost Christmas season in South Korea. Of course, the Christmas season in South Korea would not be complete without the listening of Christmas carols.
South Koreans enjoy Christmas Day, but not to the point that they will go from the city to the province to see their families. Christmas will be spent by the majority of Koreans with their friends and lovers. In fact, some people in Korea referred to Christmas as "another Valentine's Day with Santa."
|Date||Holidays/ Observances/ Season|| Hangul|
|14 Feb||Valentine's Day||발렌타인 데이||ballentain dei|
|21 March||March Equinox||3월 춘분||3wol chunbun|
|5 Apr||Arbor Day||식목일||singmogil|
|1 May||Labor Day||노동절||nodongjeol|
|8 May||Parents' Day||어버이 날||eobeoi nal|
|15 May||Teacher's Day||스승의 날||seuseungui nal|
|17 July||Constitution Day||제헌절||jeheonjeol|
|23 September||September Equinox||9월 춘분||9wol chunbun|
|1 October||Armed Forces Day||국군의 날||Gukkunui nal|
|22 December||December Solstice||동지||Dongji|
|24 December||Christmas Eve||크리스마스 이브||keuliseumaseu ibeu|
|31 December||New Year's Eve||섣달 그믐||Seotdal Geumeum|
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