January 1 (New Year's Day)
Korea does not celebrate New Year's Day. They regard the day as making a fresh start in the life with the start of a new year. But, Seolnal , the first day of the first month by the Lunar calendar is the true New Year for Koreans. Offices and businesses are closed on New Year's Day. Korean people used to celebrate New Year's day, but the custom is now replaced by Lunar New Year Day, which often falls in February.
Lunar New Year (Korean New Year's Day)
The first day of the first month of the lunar calendar is Seolnal, a day for families to get together to remember their roots and renew close family ties. It comes about a month after the January 1 New Year's day of the Gregorian calendar. The day is the time for honoring ancestors and for Family members rise early and put on their best clothes. Seolsang , a ritual table of foods, fruits and wine, is arranged for honoring the ancestors in the past. The younger members bow to their parents and grandparents as a reaffirmation of family ties. TTeokkuk, which is a kind of soup with a traditional steamed rice cake, is still the most common meal of the day. The family gathers at the Keunjib, the oldest male member's home, and the men, from the eldest down to little boys, pay homage to their ancestors in solemn rites called Charye. After the rite, formal New Year's obeisance called Sebae is made with deep bows to the elders of the family in the order of grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Tteokkuk, a rice dumpling soup, is eaten on Seolnal. Kite-flying and playing a backgammon-like game called Yut and a teeter totter. Traditionally, people dressed in a new clothes specifically prepared for Seolnal as a symbol of beginning life afresh.
March 1 (Independence Movement Day)
Koreans observe the anniversary of the March 1, 1919 independence movement against Japanese colonial rule. On this day the Proclamation of Independence which was signed by 33 Korean patriots is read at Pagoda park in Seoul. National flag are hung and memorial events are held by government.
Buddha's birthday (Dates varies)
The eighth day of the fourth month by the lunar calendar is Buddha's birthday. It is called Chopail, literally meaning "eighth day of the month" and also "Bucheonim Osinnal", literally meaning "the day Buddha came." This day has been a legal holiday in Korea since 1975. Buddhists celebrate this day with many events and much merrymaking. Among them are a symbolic bathing of the baby Buddha. This is done using a special vessel to pour water over a statue of a baby Buddha which stands in a lotus-shaped basin. Another ritual in which laymen can participate is called Tapdori. A group of Buddhists led by a monk form a ring and circle a Tap or pagoda, praying and chanting sutras. The highlight of the day is the lighting of paper lanterns which are hung everywhere inside and outside the temple. Believers hang a lantern for each member of the family. These are usually purchased in advance from the resident monks who hang them and chant prayers for the subscribers throughout the day. The lanterns are lit in the evening. To the Buddhists, the lantern symbolizes wisdom and mercy. The lanterns are said to brighten and eliminate the dark spots in one's heart as the light is believed to be given by the Buddha. Festivities are climaxed by a lit lantern parade in the evening.
May 5 (Children's Day)
This particular day in spring has become increasingly popular for families to take their children on excursion. To further strengthen the family institution the Korean government in 1975 made Children's day a national holiday. This day is celebrated with various programs for children who spend the day enjoying themselves with their parents. The spirit of this gala occasion is catching even for the elderly grandparents who are seen with their grandchildren. Amusement parks, resorts, bookshops or department stores are always packed with colorfully dress children.
June 6 (Memorial Day)
It's a day to commemorate the soldiers who have died while serving in the military. On this day, the nation pays tribute to the Korean War dead. Memorial services are held at the National Cemeteries around the country. The country is still divided today, and tension constantly runs high. The largest Memorial Day ceremony takes place at the National Cemetery in Seoul. Nationals hang a half mast flag.
August 15 (Independence Day)
This national holiday commemorates the acceptance by Japan of the allied terms of surrender in 1945, thereby freeing Korea from 36 years of Japanese domination. It also marks the 1948, establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea. National flags are hung.
Chuseok (Thanksgiving Day)
It is celebrated on the 15th of the eighth month by the lunar calendar. It is a time for families to get together at the oldest male members' house for a great feast to celebrate the new harvest and, more importantly, to offer thanks and to show respect to nature and to their ancestors. And when Chuseok dawns, they don their best outfits and, like generations before them, begin a series of rituals and activities culminating in gazing at the full moon. The first order of the day is to pay homage to the ancestors with a feast of foods made from the new harvest. It is offered in solemn rites called Charye. On Chuseok , it is customary to visit the graves of one's ancestors to pay respect with bows and food offerings. It is also a time to cut the grass and pull up weeds on and around the grave. There are also number of games and dances associated with Chuseok , which, in the past helped to strengthen neighborly relations and to promote community spirit. Ganggangsuwollra e is a circle dance performed by women in southwestern part of Korea .
October 3 (National Foundation Day)
This day marks the traditional founding of Korea by Dangun. Dangun was the son of Hwanwoong who was the son of Hwnain, the god of all and ruler of Heaven. Hwanwoong longed to live among the mountains and valleys of Earth so his father sent him, accompanied by three thousand celestial helpers, to rule it and provide humans with much happiness. Hwnawoong descend from Heaven to Mt. Baekdusan as it is now known, on the border of Manchuria and North Korea. He named the place Shinsi and with his ministers of wind, rain and clouds, imposed a code of laws, and taught its inhabitants moral principles and more than three hundred useful arts including medicines and agriculture. At the time there lived together in a cave a tiger and a bear who wished to become human. Hearing their prayers, Hwanwoong called them and, giving each of them twenty garlics and a bunch of mugworts, told them to eat the sacred food and stay out of the sunlight for a hundred days and their wish would be granted. The two then retired to the darkness of their cave. The tiger grew weary of the task and left the cave but the beat remained and after 21 days was transformed into a women. The bear- woman was thankful and made offering to Hwanwoong. But soon she became sad because she had no companion. She could not find a husband so she prayed under a sandalwood tree to be blessed with a child. Moved by here prayers, Hwanwoong took her for his wife and they soon had a strong, handsome son and named him Dangun, meaning "Sandalwood" or "Altar Prince." He went to Pyongyang and established a residence and proclaimed his kingdom Old Joseon.
December 25 (Christmas)
The history of Catholicism in Korea begins with Lee Byeok, who has sent Lee Seunghun to Beijing where he became the first to receive baptism. After being baptized by a French priest in the Beijing church, and on his return to Korea in the autumn of 1784, Lee Seunghun in turn baptized Lee Byeok who went on an active proselytizing campaign. Korea's first Catholic church was established in Seoul in 1784. In May of 1984 during the bicentennial commemoration of Korean Catholicism, Pope John Paul II canonized 103 of Korea's martyrs, making the country fourth in the world in the total number of saints. The Protestantism in Korea begins with Horace Allen, an American Presbyterian (Northern) missionary who arrived in Korea in 1884. Horace G. Underwood of the same denomination and the Methodist Episcopal (North) missionary, Henry G. Appenzeller, came from the United States the next year. From the beginning, Protestant missions simultaneously performed evangelical and social work. By establishing the country's first Western medical clinics and introducing a modern school system, these missionaries played a leading role in bringing the modern social institutions of the West into Korean society. Christmas is observed as a national holiday as it is in the Western countries.