The popular festivals of South Korea are varied. On the one hand, there are the Buddhist festivals, and on the other, the Christian celebrations. This country also allows freedom to worship, and some 50% of the population do not belong to any religion.
Festivities in South Korea follow both the solar, or Gregorian, and the lunar calendars. Generally, events that follow the lunar calendar are related to the country’s more traditional customs.
Let’s see. Below we show you the most important popular festivals of South Korea month by month.
In January, there are two celebrations. On the one hand, there is the Western New Year on the 1st of January and on the other, the Seol-nal or Korean New Year. The latter is celebrated on the first day of the lunar year, which can be between the 19th of January and the 20th of February.
February is the month dedicated to one of the most important popular festivals of South Korea: the Seol-nal. This festival does not have an exact date, although it tends to be celebrated between the end of January and the beginning of February. The Seol-nal or “lunar new year” is one of the most important traditional Korean festivals.
On the first day of March Koreans celebrate the Movement for Independence Day which took place in 1919 against the Japanese invasion. The most important celebrations are held at the Independence Park in Seodaemun.
If you are in South Korea in April, you could attend the Liquor and Rice Biscuit festival, which is a pleasant event and ideal for getting to know, not only the country’s gastronomy firsthand, but also its cultural traditions.
Another South Korean festival that is celebrated in April is the Hansik or Cold Food Day. This celebration has Chinese origins and owes its existence to an ancient custom of not making a fire up at night.
At the beginning of May, another South Korean popular festival takes place which is ruled by the lunar calendar: The Day of Buddha’s Birth. This is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month according to the lunar calendar. This festival is also known as Seokka Tanshin-il or the Festival of the Lotus Lanterns, as the temples are decorated with lanterns and at night there are lantern processions and parades.
Another emblematic popular South Korean festival is Memorial Day, which commemorates those who died for their homeland. This Korean day is celebrated on the 6th of June at the Seoul National Cemetery, where homage is paid to both the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives for the country.
In July, specifically on the 17th, the inhabitants of South Korea celebrate the Jeheonjeol or Constitution Day. This day commemorates the proclamation of the Constitution which took place in 1948.
The 15th of August is the day when Liberation Day is celebrated. Koreans celebrate their liberation from the Japanese occupation in 1945 and the creation of the Korean Republic three years later. The bell of the Bosingak Pavillion rings out through the city in homage to the leading figures of the liberation movement.
Perhaps this is one of the most well-attended popular festivals in South Korea. The Chuseok or Harvest Festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which tends to be between mid-September and the beginning of October.
Koreans make courtesy visits to their families as a sign of respect and they exchange gifts. The rituals that take place on Mount Maisan on Ganghwa Island in the Han River estuary are famous.
October is the month when National Foundation day is celebrated, specifically on the 3rd of October. The country was founded in 2333 B.C. by King Dangun. Once again, Maisan Mountain is the protagonist, as the celebration is held there.
Every 2nd of November Koreans celebrate Mother’s Day. This is a new festivity which was created in 2012 to honour all mothers.
On the 22nd of December Koreans celebrate the Dongji or winter solstice. During this festivity, many ritual practices are carried out to banish evil spirits. Also, Christmas or Seongtanjeol, is celebrated on the 25th of December, as Korea is one of the few Asian countries where this is a festive day throughout the country.
As you can see, there is no lack of popular festivals in South Korea, we are sure that you will be able to attend one of them during your trip.