Traditional Korean Holidays: The Top Four Celebrations

The statistics are in: Korea is the new beauty mecca. K-beauty is becoming a global phenomenon. However, its dominance in the plastic surgery industry earns the nation’s title. For cosmetic procedures, travelers across the globe are flocking to the Land of the Morning Calm. Perhaps you are planning to join this group. If so, you may be wondering when is this best time to visit? Consider scheduling your trip around a traditional Korean holiday. Korean holidays include some of the most beautiful festivals with deep, historical roots. Whether it be Seollal, Buddha Day, or Chuseok, you will not be disappointed! Scroll below to learn more about the top five traditional Korean holidays.

traditional Korean holidays

The Top Four Traditional Korean Celebrations

1. Seollal/The Lunar New Year

Kick starting our list of traditional Korean holidays is Seollal, which celebrates the lunar New Year. Seollal is one of, if not the, most widely celebrated holidays in Korea. This holiday is dedicated to celebrating family members of the present and past. In this demanding world, it can be difficult for relatives to come together. School, jobs, hobbies, etc. can eat away at our calendars. However, Seollal is about pressing the pause button on our busy lives and taking the time to enjoy our loved ones’ company. It’s a time to shift our attention back onto what matters most.

Seollal’s observance lasts five days. This gives observers time to make travel arrangements, prepare customary dishes, and shop for gifts. If you are considering traveling to South Korea, opt for a visit during Seollal. You can maximize your trip by visiting popular sites such as the National Museum of Korea, the Gangnam District, or Banpo Bridge. There’s no wrong time to book your trip. However, if you want to start off the new year with a new look, there’s no better time to visit than during the Lunar New Year.

traditional Korean holidays

2. Buddha’s Birthday/Buddha Day

Buddha’s Birthday, often times known as “Buddha Day“,  is another beloved, traditional Korean holiday. As the title suggests, it marks the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama. Prince Siddhartha, known as “The Enlightened One”, was the founder of Buddhism. This is a very personal holiday to the Korean nation. Nearly a quarter of the country’s people are practicing Buddhists. Buddha Day occurs between the end of April and beginning of May. During this celebration, observers commonly visit Buddhist temples. Here, they may burn incense, candles, and offer their prayers and thanks to Buddha. Additionally, many visitors sit and share both food and tea with the temples’ monks.

Parades are another common feature of this traditional Korean holiday. In Seoul, South Korea’s capital, a parade can occupy several blocks. These parades can be very lavish and intricate with big, bright colorful dragons, dancers, and lots of music! One way in which Buddha Day sets itself apart from the other traditional Korean holidays is its lack of grand feasts. Unlike Seollal, where families can spend days preparing large dishes, Buddha’s Birthday is a day of minimalism in the kitchen. This custom serves to pay homage to the Buddha’s simple lifestyle. If you are planning your trip to Korea, consider visiting on Buddha Day!

traditional Korean holidays

3. Chuseok

Coming in third of our list of traditional Korean holidays is Chuseok, the great harvest festival. Buddha’s Birthday is a holiday important to not only Koreans but many South Asian countries. However, Chuseok has particular emphasis to the Korean nation. Chuseok, which translates to “Autumn eve”, is similar to the United States’s Thanksgiving Day. Chuseok’s celebrations share many commonalities with Seollal. Both holidays place an emphasis on families reconnecting and spending quality time together. However, while Seollal is dedicated to the year’s beginning, Chuseok is dedicated to the autumnal months.

The holiday is celebrated every August 15th. And yet, the celebration period lasts for three days. Like Seollal, this gives observers sufficient time to visit their families and return home. Other similarities between Seollal and Chuseok are cooking and gift-giving. One special dish prepared during Chuseok is songpyeon, a tasty rice cake! Perhaps arriving in Seollal for your trip wouldn’t be ideal. Korean winters can be quite chilly. Consequently, you may want to consider coming during the warmer season. If so, choose the Chuseok celebration to book your flight! You get the same traditions as Seollal without the cold to weather to slow you down.

traditional Korean holidays

4. Children’s Day

Last, but certainly not least on our lists of traditional Korean holidays is Children’s Day! This might be one of the most playful holidays to be found anywhere in the world. You may be wondering: is it what it sounds like? The answer is yes! Children’s Day is about celebrating Korean’s children and the inner child that still lives in all of us. This national holiday takes place every May 5th. It was founded by Korean writer, Pang Chong-hwan. The writer wanted the nation to place more emphasis on the youth, insisting their importance and need for acknowledgment within the country. Children’s Day encourages independence amongst children, but also the job of their parents and adults alike to cherish and protect kids across the nation.

While Seollal, Chuseok, and Buddha Day are all valuable and festive holidays, none are more fun by nature than Children’s Day! On this day, there are games and activities galore! Museums, amusement parks, movie theaters, and more open their doors for parents to bring their children. Most importantly, this all takes place free of charge! In the household, popular games such as  Yut and Gonggi are played. Similar to Seollal and Chuseok, gifts are also given. However, these gifts are specifically given to the children by their parents, relatives, and even some children’s’ stores! For kids, Children’s Day is a real-life dream come true.

So With That Said…

Korea is a beautiful land and there are magnificent sights and sounds to occupy you all year long. If you are planning on booking a trip, there isn’t a bad time to visit. However, we all live busy lives and travel is neither cheap nor simple to up and do. Therefore, why not get the most bang for your buck and plan your next trip to the Land of the Morning Calm during a traditional Korean holiday!

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