National Holidays



Seol-nal and Chooseok are the most important traditional holidays for Koreans, and on these two holidays many of the shops are closed. Millions of people visit their home towns to celebrate with their families during these periods.Even though Korea adopted the solar calendar system after World War II, some of the big holidays still follow the lunar calendar. Palaces, museums, most restaurants, department stores, and amusement facilities are open during most of the holidays.

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)  Korean people go to the mountains or beaches on the East coast, watch the year’s first sunrise and make a wish.
  • Seol Nal (Lunar New Year’s Day: January 1-2)  New Year’s Day according to the lunar calendar is the Korean holiday of Seol Nal. It is the most important traditional events of the year, so Lunar Jan.1st and 2nd are national holidays. Most businesses are closed, and people take several days off to visit their home towns to be with family like you would do for Christmas. Feasts are held with specially prepared food such as ttokguk and manduguk (links / pictures). People play traditional games, fly kites and spin tops and have a ceremony to remember their ancestors.
  • Sam Il Jeol (Independence Movement Day: March 1)  This day commemorates the Declaration of Independence proclaimed on March 1st, 1919, while Korea was under Japanese occupation. 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.
  • Aw-rin-ni / EoRini Nal (Children’s Day: May 5)  Parents need to prepare special events and gifts for their children. They usually go to parks, amusement parks, zoos, or to the cinema and just have fun.
  • Seok-ga-tan-shin- il (Lunar Buddha’s Birthday: April 8)  April 8th on the lunar calendar. People visit Buddhist temples to witness beautiful, elaborate, and solemn rituals. Lanterns are hung in the temple courtyards and on the Sunday before Buddha’s birthday these lanterns are lit and carried in parades in the evening.
  • Hyun-choong-il (Memorial Day: June 6)  Hyun-choong-il is set aside to honour the soldiers and civilians who have given their lives for their country. Many Armies from 30 countries including Canada, the US and U.K. came to Korea to fight against North Korea and other communist regimes. The official ceremony is held at the National Cemetery in Seoul.
  • Kwang-bok-jeol (Liberation Day: August 15)  This day commemorates the Japanese acceptance of the Allies’ terms of surrender and the resulting liberation of Korea in 1945.
  • Chooseok (Lunar Thanksgiving day: August 15)  Chooseok is one of the year’s most important traditional holidays. Chooseok is often referred to as the Korean Thanksgiving Day as it celebrates the harvest and a giving of thanks for the bounty of the earth. As people visit their grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles in the small towns in Korea traffic jams on the highway are to be expected.
  • Gae Cheon Jeol (National Foundation Day: October 3)   This day commemorates the founding of the Korean nation in 2333 B.C. by the legendary son of God named Dangun. A simple ceremony is held at an altar on top of Mt. Manisan, Ganghwado.The altar is said to have been erected by Dangun to offer thanks to his father and grandfather in heaven.
  • Christmas (December 25)  Of course Christmas is a national holiday, as about 30% of the population is Christian or Catholic. A difference between North American or European Christmas and Korean is that there are many events, festivals and tourpackages for couples on Chrismas. These days, more people are spending time with ‘their families. Don’t forget that there are Seol Nal and Chooseok for family members in Korea.


*Special Days 

  • Kyeunrojaeu Nal (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.
  • Aboi Nal (Parents’ Day: May 8)  This is a combination of Mother’s Day and Father’s day.  Parents’ Day is not a national holiday, so many businesses are open. Poor Korean parents.
  • Chehun Jeol (Constitution Day: July 17)  Commemorates the proclamation of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea that was made on July 17, 1948.
  • Hangeul Nal(Korean Alphabet Day: October 9) Hangeul Day, otherwise referred to as Hangeul Proclamation Day, is a commemoration held on October 9 in South Korea to remember the creation of Hangeul, the country’s native alphabet as proclaimed by the publication of Hunmin Jeongeum on this day in 1446.