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Culture

Unique Korean Holidays - From Children Day to Peppero Day

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holidays-in-korea
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Culture
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DALL·E 2024-04-26 13.46.31 - A wide webtoon-style image featuring an Asian man wearing a baby yellow hoodie and a blue beanie. He looks confused as he gazes at a calendar. Above h.webp
Date
Jul 5, 2024
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Published
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Explore Korea's unique holidays, from the traditional Seollal and Chuseok to the fun Peppero and Hug Day.
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Introduction

When you live in Korea for a while, you will notice that Korea has many special holidays. Some are national holidays, and some are unofficial holidays that everybody in Korea just seems to know! For example, when I first arrived in Korea, our professor asked the class if we knew what day it was and went on to explain it was “White Day”. I'd never heard of this day before, and he explained that as on Valentine's Day women give chocolate to men, on White Day men reciprocate the favor by gifting women chocolate. Today, I will go through some holidays that are celebrated, both officially and unofficially, in Korea.

Seollal (설날) - Lunar New Year's Day

Seollal, also known as Lunar New Year's Day, is one of the most important traditional holidays in Korea. It typically falls in late January or early February, with the exact date varying each year according to the lunar calendar. Seollal is a time for family gatherings, ancestral rites, and the celebration of the upcoming year. Many Koreans wear traditional attire known as Hanbok, play traditional games, and prepare special foods, the most notable being Tteokguk, a soup made with sliced rice cakes. This holiday is also a time to pay respect to ancestors through a ritual called Charye. Gifts are often exchanged among family members and it's also common for children to bow to their elders in a gesture called Sebae, receiving good wishes and monetary gifts in return. Overall, Seollal is a time of celebration, reflection, and the strengthening of family bonds.

Valentine's Day (발렌타인데이) - February 14th

Valentine's Day in Korea is a little different from most other countries. On this day, it's traditional for women to give chocolate to men as a sign of affection. This custom is widely accepted and practiced not only between couples, but also amongst friends, colleagues, and students. It's a day where women express their feelings towards men with sweet treats, which can range from store-bought chocolates to handmade confections. It's followed by White Day on March 14th, where men return the gesture by giving gifts to women.

White Day (화이트데이) - March 14th

White Day, celebrated on March 14th in Korea, is a day for men to reciprocate the gifts they received on Valentine's Day. Traditionally, men give women gifts that are white in color, hence the name 'White Day.' These gifts often include white chocolate, marshmallows, or other types of confections, but can also extend to non-food items, such as jewelry or clothing. This day is seen as an opportunity for men to express their feelings towards the women who gave them gifts on Valentine's Day. It's a day of affection, appreciation, and most importantly, reciprocation.

Samil Movement Day (삼일절) - March 1st

Samil Movement Day, also known as March 1st Movement, is a significant historical day in Korea. It marks the public resistance against the Japanese colonial rule in 1919. On this day, Koreans express their national pride and pay tribute to the activists who fought for Korean independence. It's a momentous day, marked by various events and activities that remember and honor the spirit of the national independence movement.

Black Day (블랙데이) - April 14th

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Black Day, celebrated on April 14th in Korea, is a day dedicated to the single population. Interestingly, this day is a follow-up to Valentine's Day and White Day, and it's specifically for people who didn't receive any gifts on either of those days. On Black Day, it's customary for singles to gather and eat Jjajangmyeon, a noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of black bean paste, together. It's a day of camaraderie and comfort for those who are currently without a romantic partner, as well as an opportunity to meet other singles. Despite its seemingly gloomy name, Black Day is often celebrated with good humor and is seen as a celebration of friendship and self-love.

Buddha's Birthday (부처님 오신 날) - 4th Month (Lunar Calendar)

Buddha's Birthday, known as "부처님 오신 날" in Korean, is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Lunar Calendar. This day commemorates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as Buddha. It's a significant holiday in Korea, particularly for those practicing Buddhism. Temples across the country hold various events and rituals, and the streets are often adorned with colorful lanterns. Many people visit temples to pay their respects, participate in rituals like bathing the statue of baby Buddha, and enjoy the serene atmosphere. It's not only a spiritual occasion but also a cultural one, as it showcases Korea's rich Buddhist heritage and traditions.

Children's Day (어린이날) - May 5th

Children's Day, celebrated on May 5th in Korea, is a day dedicated to the children of the nation. On this day, children are the center of attention and various events and activities are organized for their enjoyment. Many parents take their children out to amusement parks, zoos, or other recreational areas. It's a special day when children are celebrated and appreciated, and their rights and happiness are given utmost importance. The day also serves as a reminder for adults about the importance of nurturing and caring for the younger generation.

Parents' Day (어버이날) - May 8th

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Parents' Day, celebrated on May 8th in Korea, is a day to honor parents for their selfless love and sacrifice. It's a day when children express their gratitude and respect towards their parents, often with carnation flowers which are seen as a symbol of the undying love of parents. On this day, children often visit their parents, bring them gifts, and spend quality time with them. The day serves as a reminder of the important role parents play in the lives of their children.

Teachers' Day (스승의날) - May 15th

Teachers' Day, also known as 스승의날 in Korea, is observed every year on May 15th. This day is dedicated to showing gratitude and respect to teachers for their significant contributions in shaping the minds of students. It is customary for students to give their teachers carnations and handwritten letters expressing their appreciation. Some students also visit their former teachers at home or invite them to school for a reunion. This day serves as a reminder of the critical role teachers play in society and the need to respect and appreciate their efforts.

Rose Day (로즈데이) - May 14th

Rose Day, also known as Yellow Day, is celebrated on May 14th in Korea. This day is an opportunity for couples to express their love by giving each other roses. It's also a day when people wear yellow and eat yellow food. Interestingly, it's not just a day for couples. For single people, it's customary to eat yellow curry with friends. Despite its name, Rose Day is less about the flower itself and more about celebrating love and friendship in colorful and flavorful ways.

Kiss Day (키스데이) - June 14th

Kiss Day, celebrated on June 14th in Korea, is exactly what it sounds like - a day for couples to express their love with a kiss. It's a charming and romantic day when couples share a special moment together. While it is most popular among young couples, anyone in love can celebrate this day. It is a day to show affection and keep the romance alive. For singles, it's a day to look forward to future love. Indeed, Kiss Day is another testament to Korea's love for celebrations and special days dedicated to love and relationships.

Silver Day (실버데이) - July 14th

Silver Day, celebrated on July 14th in Korea, is a day for couples to exchange silver accessories as a sign of love. This day is seen as an opportunity for couples to make promises for the future. The exchanging of silver items, such as rings or necklaces, symbolizes these promises. It's a day when couples can openly express their love and commitment towards each other. For singles, it's a reminder that love might be just around the corner.

Green Day (그린데이) - August 14th

Green Day, celebrated on August 14th in Korea, is a day when couples and friends spend time outdoors, enjoying nature together. The name 'Green Day' encourages people to dress in green and enjoy a bottle of soju in the great outdoors. This day is a way to appreciate the environment and nature. For those who are single, Green Day is a day to enjoy some time alone in a park or go for a hike with friends.

Chuseok (추석) - 15th Day of the 8th Lunar Month

Chuseok, also known as Korean Thanksgiving Day, is one of the most significant holidays in Korea. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. This holiday is a time of family reunion, similar to Thanksgiving in the United States. Families gather to share food and stories, and to pay respects to their ancestors. Traditional activities include wearing Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), playing folk games, and preparing a feast that includes Songpyeon (half-moon-shaped rice cakes) and other traditional foods. Chuseok is a celebration of the harvest and a time to appreciate the bounty of the earth.

Hangeul Day (한글날) - October 9th

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Hangeul Day, celebrated on October 9th in Korea, commemorates the creation of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. King Sejong the Great and his scholars created Hangeul in the 15th century to promote literacy among the common people, who often found the Classical Chinese characters previously used in Korean writing to be too difficult to learn. On this day, people celebrate the simplicity, scientific design, and cultural importance of Hangeul. Various educational events, exhibitions, and festivals take place all over the country, making it an excellent opportunity to learn about the Korean language and its unique writing system.

Peppero Day (빼빼로데이) - November 11th

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Peppero Day, celebrated on November 11th in Korea, is a unique holiday that revolves around a specific snack: Peppero. These are stick-shaped biscuits covered in chocolate, and the date was chosen because "11/11" resembles four sticks of Peppero. On this day, people give Peppero snacks to friends, family, and loved ones, as a fun way to show affection and friendship. The day is particularly popular among young people and students. It's become such a popular event that the sales of Peppero skyrocket every year as November 11th approaches.

Suneung (수능) - November (date varies)

Suneung, also known as College Scholastic Ability Test, is an important day in Korea that typically falls in November, though the exact date varies each year. This is the day when high school seniors take the crucial national college entrance exam. The test is highly competitive and is often seen as determining the future career and success of students. The entire country, including businesses and public transportation, adjusts their schedule to ensure a smooth and quiet environment for the students. It's customary for younger students to cheer their seniors as they go to take the exam, creating a sense of solidarity and support.

Hug Day (허그데이) - December 14th

Hug Day, celebrated on December 14th in Korea, is exactly as it sounds - a day dedicated to expressing care, support, and love through the simple act of giving or receiving a hug. In a culture where physical affection can often be reserved, Hug Day breaks down barriers and provides a heartwarming opportunity for people to show their affection towards their loved ones. It's a day that promotes the comforting and healing power of human touch, reminding everyone of the importance of expressing love and support physically as well as verbally. Whether it's between family, friends, or couples, hugs are freely exchanged on this day, strengthening bonds and spreading warmth and happiness.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Korean holidays are a vibrant and integral part of the country's culture. Both the official and unofficial holidays provide fascinating insights into Korea's history, traditions, and societal norms. From the familial bonding of Seollal and Chuseok, to the playful exchange of gifts on days like Peppero Day, these occasions encapsulate the spirit of community, love, and respect that is characteristic of Korean society.
Every holiday has a unique charm, whether it's the respect for teachers on Teachers' Day, the celebration of children on Children's Day, or the appreciation of nature on Green Day. These holidays not only bring people together but also serve as a reminder of the values that are held dear in Korean society.
But what about you? Are these holidays different from the ones celebrated in your home country? Does your country have a special day that is unique to your culture? Share with us your traditions and let's celebrate the diversity and richness of cultures from around the world.

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Kim Ninja (Huy-Kim Nguyen)
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The blog published by Kim Ninja (Huy-Kim Nguyen) is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter.
 

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