Festivals & Events
Korea's traditional holidays mostly follow the lunar calendar and therefore fall on different days each year. The two biggest, Seollal and Chuseok, are family holidays and involve everybody returning to their hometowns en masse, meaning that all forms of transport are absolutely packed. It is worth planning your itinerary around these dates, as well as noting that your best eating options may be noodle packets from a 7-Eleven! On the other holidays you will not notice too much difference, however all banks and government offices will be closed.
- Shinjeong (신정), means New Year's Day: on the 1st day, January. Shin(신) is a Korean word that means 'new'. January 1st is named 'Shinjeong' because after Korea adopted the Gregorian calendar it became the new way to mark the New Year.
- Seollal (설날), Lunar New Year, also known as "Korean New Year", or "Gujeong." Families gather together, eat traditional foods-especially Ddugguk (떡국) and perform an ancestral service. The public holiday lasts for 3 days, which includes the eve and second day. Many shops and restaurants close for the 3 days, so this might not be an ideal time to visit.
- Sameeljjeol (삼일절, 3.1절): 1st March, in commemoration of the March 1st resistance movement against the invading Japanese Imperial Army in 1919.
- Orininal (어린이날): is children's day on the 5th May
- Buchonnim osinnal or sawolchopa-il: means Buddha's birthday, 8th day of the 4th month in the lunar calendar.
- Hyeonchung-il (현충일): means memorial day, 6th June. In commemoration of the people who gave their lives to the nation.
- Gwangbokjjeol (광복절): is Korea's independence day on the 15th of August. This day is actually the end of the second world war with the official Japanese surrender to the allied forces, which also meant Korea gaining her independence after many decades of Japanese colonialism.
- Chuseok (추석), often translated as "Korean Thanksgiving", this holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the year (usually September-October). Koreans celebrate by eating traditional foods, notably a rice cake called songpyeon (송편) and playing folk games. The public holiday lasts for 3 days and much like Lunar New Year, everything shuts down which makes visiting rather boring.
- Hangeulnal (한글날) : 'Hangeul Proclamation Day' anniversary for the Korean alphabet system on October 9th.
- Gaecheonjeol (개천절): 3rd October. In commemoration of the first formation of the nation of ancient Korea.
- Christmas (크리스마스/성탄절) is a significant holiday in South Korea, although it is mostly celebrated by young couples spending a romantic day together. Since a significant proportion (approximately 30%) of the country is Christian, there are no shortages of celebration in the thousands of churches whilst everyone else takes a well deserved rest at home.