|Regular Events & Performance
Koreans officially follow the Gregorian calendar, though some holidays are based on the lunar calendar. During the official holidays, offices and banks are closed but palaces, museums, most restaurants, department stores, and amusement facilities are open. Seollal and Chuseok are the most important traditional holidays for Koreans. Millions of people visit their hometowns to celebrate with their families during these periods. On Seollal, Koreans hold a memorial service for their ancestors and perform sebae, a formal bow of respect to their elders as a New Year’s greeting.
Official Korean Holidays
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
The first day of the New Year is recognized and celebrated.
- Seollal (early February)
Lunar New Year’s Day (Seollal) is one of the most important traditional events of the year, still much more significant than January 1st. Most businesses are closed, and people take several days off to visit their hometowns to be with family. Members of the family get up early, put on their best clothes, and everyone bows to their elders as a reaffirmation of family ties. Feasts are held with specially prepared food such as ttokguk and manduguk. People play traditional games or fly kites, and spin tops.
- Independence Movement Day (March 1)
This day commemorates the Declaration of Independence proclaimed on March 1, 1919, while under Japanese colonization. A reading of the declaration takes place in a special ceremony at Tapgol Park in Seoul, where the document was first read to the public.
- Children’s Day (May 5)
On this day, parents dress up their little ones and take them to children’s parks, amusement parks, zoos, or to the cinema for a full day of fun and games.
- Buddha’s Birthday (May 12)
The 8th day of the 4th lunar month. Elaborate, solemn rituals are held at many Buddhist temples across the country and lanterns are hung in the temple courtyards. The Sunday before Buddha’s birthday these lanterns are lit and carried in parades in the evening.
- Memorial Day (June 6)
Memorial Day is set aside to honor the soldiers and civilians who have given their lives for their country. The largest ceremony is held at the National Cemetery in Seoul.
- Liberation Day (August 15)
This day commemorates Japanese acceptance of the Allies’ terms of surrender and the resulting liberation of Korea in 1945.
- Chuseok (Middle September)
Chuseok is one of the year’s most important traditional holidays. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Chuseok is often referred to as Korean Thanksgiving Day. It’s a celebration of the harvest and thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth. Family members come from all over the country to visit their ancestral homes.
- National Foundation Day (October 3)
This day commemorates the founding of the Korean nation in 2333 B.C. by the legendary god-king Dangun. A simple ceremony is held at an altar on top of Mt. Manisan, Ganghwado province. The altar is said to have been erected by Dangun to offer thanks to his father and grandfather in heaven.
- Christmas (December 25)
Christmas is observed as a national holiday in Korea as in many other countries.
- Labor Day (May 1)
Although Labor Day is not a national holiday, banks and business establishments are closed, and many people enjoy a day off.
- Parents’ Day (May 8)
Sons and daughters show their love and respect for their parents on this day.
Parents’ Day is not a national holiday. Banks and shops are open for business.
- Constitution Day (July 17)
Commemorates the proclamation of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea that was made on July 17, 1948.