List of Holidays in Korea -2020
Koreans previously followed the lunar calendar, but in recent history, they have followed the solar calendar in line with international practice. While public holidays are based on the solar calendar, there are a few days that are celebrated based on the lunar calendar. These are the most important traditional holidays like New Year’s Day (the first day of the first lunar month), Chuseok mid-autumn festival (fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month), and Buddha’s Birthday (eighth day of the fourth lunar month).
In general, museums, galleries, royal palaces, and other major tourist attractions close only on a certain day of the week, regardless of public holidays. Some department stores and large marts are closed on Lunar New Year’s Day and Chuseok Day, but are opened on the days before and after, in addition to other public holidays. Each location has varying policies on days off, so be sure to double check the operation hours of any location you plan to visit on a public holiday.
Public Holidays in Korea
New Year’s Day (January 1)
On the first day of the New Year according to the solar calendar, people gather at the sea and mountains for a view of the first sunrise of the year.
Seollal (Korean New Year’s Day on the first day of the first month by the lunar calendar: January 25, 2020)
Seollal marks the first month by the lunar calendar. In Korea, it is a tradition for families and relatives to get together to perform ancestral rites and perform a traditional bow called sebe to the elders of the family. On this day, people have a bowl of tteokguk (rice cake soup). Ages are calculated according to the lunar calendar, and it is believed that each person becomes a year older after eating tteokguk. The soup is eaten with hopes for purity and longevity (the rice cakes’ white color means purity, and the long shape of rice cake before it is cut symbolizes longevity).
Independence Movement Day (March 1)
This day commemorates the declaration of the nation’s independence from Japanese colonization on March 1, 1919. This day was officially designated as a public holiday to commemorate men and women who died during the Independence Movement.
Children’s Day (May 5)
Children’s Day was designated a public holiday in hopes that all children will grow with brave hearts and wisdom, and without discrimination. In children’s parks and toy stores, which are busy with parents and their children, various events are organized for children.
Buddha’s Birthday (the eighth day of the fourth month by the lunar calendar: April 30, 2020)
Buddha’s Birthday is a Buddhist holiday celebrating the birth of Buddha, and is also called “The day that Buddha came” in Korean. Buddhist temples across the country hang lines of colorful lanterns in celebration.
Memorial Day (June 6)
Memorial Day is set aside to honor the soldiers and civilians who have given their lives for their country. At 10 a.m., a siren sounds, calling for a one-minute silent tribute.
Liberation Day (August 15)
Liberation Day celebrates Korea’s independence and the establishment of the government on the day that Korea was liberated from Imperial Japan on August 15, 1945.
Chuseok (the fifteenth day of the eighth month by the lunar calendar: September 30 – October 2, 2020)
Chuseok, along with Seollal, are the most significant holidays in Korea. Chuseok is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month by the lunar calendar. Just like the Korean New Year, families get together to perform an ancestral ritual and share a feast of traditional food, including songpyeon rice cakes (steamed on top of pine tree leaves) that the whole family makes together.
National Foundation Day (October 3)
National Foundation Day celebrates the foundation of Gojoseon, the first state of the Korean nation. It is said to have been founded by Dangun, who is known as the first Korean ancestor in ancient folklore.
Hangeul Day (October 9)
Hangeul Day commemorates the invention and the proclamation of Hangeul, the written form of the Korean language, created by King Sejong the Great. Hangeul was included on the UNESCO’s Memory of the World List in 1997.
Christmas (December 25)
Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Many downtown metropolitan districts are decorated with Christmas trees and lights. The busy commercial districts like Myeong-dong, Itaewon Special Tourist Zone, and Hongik University (Hongdae) are packed with people seeking a festive Christmas ambiance.