Four Major National Holidays
Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day)
According to the Korean Visitors Agency, Seollal, the 1st day of the Korean Lunar Calendar, is the most celebrated traditional holiday in Korea. Although January 1st, New Year’s Day is a holiday, Seollal is much more significant with people taking several days off from work to travel to their hometowns to be with their families.
Dano (Spring Festival)
People wish for good harvests after planting crops during Dano. It is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Korean lunar calendar. Celebrations are smaller than Seollal and Chuseok, Traditionally for Dano, women would wash their hair with and wear aromatic flowers to ward off evil spirits. Today many festivals are still held around Dano, the largest being recognized by UNESCO, is the Gangneung Danoje Festival in Gangwon-do Province, a few hours outside of Seoul.
Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day)
Like Seollal, Chuseok is a major traditional holiday with people taking time off to be with their families in their hometowns to celebrate another successful harvest. During Chuseok, celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, families will traditonal clothing (hanboks), perform rites to memorialize their ancestors with special foods, formal bowing, called charye, and clean up the grave sites of family members.
Hansik (Eating Cold Food Day)
On the Gregorian calendar the date is April 5th, In Korean culture Hansik is celebrated on the 105th day of Dongji. Hansik is thought to be derived from China when people ate cold food while not using any fire for a period time. This was done to commemorate Gaechachu, a tragic character who meets his untimely demise in a mountain fire. During this holiday, Korean families get together and hold ancestral memorial services and lay fresh turf at grave sites that are worn.
Other Public Holidays
3/1 Independence Movement Day – Korea declared independence while still colonized by Japan
5/5 Children’s Day – Parents take kids for a fun day celebrating hopes that the kids will grow up healthy and upright citizens
5/12 Buddha’s Birthday – Lanterns hung in the streets leading to temples where elaborate rites are held
8/18 Liberation Day – Japan agrees to the Allies terms of surrender and liberates Korea in 1945