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Archive for the 'Korean Holiday' Category

Korean Culture - Chuseok/Hangawi Festive

Chuseok is a festive holiday in Korea and last for three days. It is also called Hangawi and is celebrated on the fifteen of August or the 15th day of their lunar calendar. It is a harvest festival that takes place around the Autumn Equinox like other harvest festivals do.

The celebration begins with the Korean people visiting the ancestors in their hometown and sharing their traditional cuisine with each other.

This holiday has historic values to the Korean people as it represents the third king’s reign of the third Kingdom of Silla. During this time, there was a contest of weaving among two teams.

The team that won had to treat the other team to a feast of traditional food. Some believe that its origin came from the celebration of the Harvest Moon and a ritual of worship.

Some areas of Korea do not celebrate Chuseok if they don’t have an annual harvest and their worship is put off too for the same reason.

South Korea has some modern areas that celebrate Chuseok to maximum proportion where they will go in mass crowds to their hometowns and pay their respect to their ancestor’s spirits. They also worship their ancestors with early morning rituals.

They go to visit the graves of their direct ancestors and clean up the area around the grave site. They will even go to the extent of offering food and drink to those ancestors who have died because they believe that the harvesting of their crops is due to the blessings given to them by their ancestors.

During the Chuseok festivities, one of the main foods that are prepared for eating is the songpyeon, which is a rice cake steamed on pine needles. They will also prepare common dishes such as japchae, fruits and bulgogi.

The Koreans anticipate a rich harvest and the coming of autumn so they use this time in celebration of those occurrences by playing folk games. The people in the village dress up like cows or turtles and go to each house playing their musical bands.

Included in their games are tug of war, archery and cock fighting. In the southwestern regions, a circular dance under the moon is performed by the women and the children.

Korean Holidays - Korean Constitution Day

Constitution Day in South Korea takes place on July 17th each year. It celebrates the exact day that the Korean Constitution was put in effect since 1948. The decision to make this day the chosen day for this holiday came three years after the defeat of Japan in World War II as well as after the elections and when the members of the national assembly were selected.

Soon after all of this took place including the announcement of Constitution Day, on August 18th, the First Republic of Korea was formally launched.

The laws on public holidays in South Korea was agreed upon in October 1948 and that is the same time that July 17th became the designated holiday for Constitution Day in South Korea.

The main attraction during Constitution Day does not include any particular festivities, but citizens usually participate in marathons. They run the long distance race on the streets of South Korea as an indication of their solidarity and respect for this National holiday.

A memorial service is performed on July 17th of each year and it serves to profess the protection of the Korean Constitution in light of democracy.

In 2008, Constitution Day was officially taken away from the public sector as being a non-working day. Citizens still have to go to work. This was administered when the government decided that they needed to reduce the number of non-working holidays that citizens could enjoy. Arbor Day (plant a tree day) and Constitution Day fell in that same category even though they are still considered as public holidays.

Constitution Day marked the signing of the Korean Constitution as well as the end of the imperial rule that the Japanese had to undergo in 1945.

Constitution Day was the day when South Korea and North Korea became divided. It is not a day that many individuals want to remember since they are being separated from their families who live in other parts of Korea.

This particular day is mostly a reminder of the political impact that was created due to South Korean government’s decision to become their own entity.

Korean Culture - (Hyeonchung-il) Korean Memorial Day

The Independence movement of Korea and experiences of the war mark the beginning of Memorial Day as a public holiday to commemorate the loss of lives that Koreans underwent. On Memorial Day, the Korean flag is flown at half staff as a reminder of the tragedy and death of both men and women who died while they served in the military.

This momentous occasion is celebrated every year on June 6th and is in memory of those who died in the Korean War. A memorial service is held on that day in the National cemetery of Seoul.

The emotional and physical scars left behind tell the tale of sadness as South Koreans try to give credence to those who suffered and died for their country. The President of Korea usually speaks during the lavish ceremony that commemorates the occasion.

The Koreans think that they suffered more losses than even the losses suffered in World War II and also think that the war is still ongoing because of the conflict between countries like the United States. They call this “the cold war.”

So the Memorial Day celebration is more than about the dying soldiers, but those who are still living in the conflict of the world.

The historical Korean War marked the attack on Seoul by North Korea and the killing of over seven thousand people. The survivors served unwillingly in the Korean War because they were forced to do so. This is why the Memorial Day celebration is held in Seoul as a reminder of that attack.

In 1994, the Korean government opened up a War Museum in Seoul as an indication of the Memorial Day celebration. It has about six rooms with exhibitions of what took place during the war and about thirteen thousand war items displayed. The museum is located on the headquarters of the army base and has two upper floors and two lower floors.

On the exterior of the museum there are military equipments on display that represented the Korean War. The museum houses a combat room that allows visitors to experience what the soldiers went through during the nights at war time.

May is Family Month - Save 30%!

The Month of May in Korea is often called Family Month. There’s Children’s Day, Parent’s Day, and Teacher’s Day. Korea takes Mother’s Day to a whole different level! On these days you give your Children, Parents and Teachers gifts to show them how much you appreciate them. Children often benefit the most with candy and money being popular gifts. Teachers get quite a lot of gifts as well as they have many students and parents to receive gifts from. And that’s why the month of May is called Family month in Korea!

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Children’s Day - Tylenol’s favorite holiday in Korea

Children’s Day. May 5.

Again with the Love Day reference, this holiday is dedicated to the cute little monsters that plague the countryside and cities. It was founded by the Korea’s answer to Dr. Seuss back in 1923. Its fascination by well-written foreigners knows no limits. Pack up the aspirin because it’s going to be a long day…

Thought Korean kids were spoiled? Today you are so right. Today, Korean children are calling the shots. Highways packed, zoos overcrowded, ice cream screaming for its life…poor little vanilla never had a chance…there will be sweets consumed today. Oh yes. There will be sweets.

Vanilla Ice Cream Doesn't Want To be Eaten

Speaking of spoiled, it might benefit everyone to take a moment and analyze why exactly this is the case. I mean, by some Westerner’s standards, Korean kids are little princes and princesses. We have a maxim in English that comes to mind; “Spare the rod, spoil the child”. Well, plenty of Americans think that this is crap and it basically sets the kid up for failure in the future. I can speak for my family in that my parents did like many others by not giving into a child’s demands. But can I just say that I have been asking for a trampoline for Christmas since I was like four? Lousy Santa has been holding out on me…

Anyways, this cultural difference begs to have another idiom throw around “Can’t see the forest for the trees”. The problem lies in the timing. Korean parents know what they are doing, just as in America, but it’s done a little bit later in life.

In America, we stress at a very early age to be self-reliant. If a five year old can’t tie their own shoes, most would agree that it is better to teach the child as soon as possible instead of just tying it for them. This transition period where the kid can’t figure out why on earth his shoes aren’t already tied (he did say ‘please’ ) is very common in America. It takes a bit more time to teach instead of simply doing, sure. It is stressful for the child and adult but ultimately follows a normative cultural expectation. Remember “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime.” It is in the child’s best interest to learn as soon as possible. Similarly, when a kid acts up in the grocery store, American parents are generally quick to reprimand the child with negative reinforcement in hopes that in the future they will become socialized. I myself once received some negative reinforcement in the form of my mother walking away in disgust whilst leaving my father holding me in his arms crying bloody murder, my big brother eating a box of not-yet-purchased saltine crackers in the shopping basket, and my oldest brother shrieking in terror over the little cartoon devil on the Deviled Ham package. Oh good times at the Piggly Wiggly.

Deviled Ham

Where was I? Oh yeah. Well, this is the same in Korea (socialization, not deviled ham). The ultimate goal is to socialize the child. However, until a child in Korea reaches a certain age, they can get away with (relative) murder. Why?

Simply put, their little lives will suck later on in life. Korean adults know this. They know the pressure, they know the concern, they know the shock that will ensue once they hit junior high. So what is a caring parent to do? Let the kids enjoy their childhood. When viewed through a different set of cultural lens, this makes perfect sense.

So, the timing is a little different - American kids get socialized pretty early on while Korean kids get a free pass until primary school. But make no mistake, Korea has social etiquette down to a science and, frankly, puts America to shame in the formal manners department. This isn’t to say that Americans are inherently rude, but it’s a little unfair to battle hundreds of years of detailed, refined social hierarchy. Oh well. We invented the chocolate chip cookie. Live with that, world.

So days like Children’s Day are to celebrate children and allow them to enjoy pleasant memories with family relatives. Yes, a day for children to run free, play games, and just be kids. Just don’t forget the aspirin.


화이트데이 - reverse Valentine’s Day in Korea (White Day)


I’m not entirely comfortable with the name of this holiday. I mean, I’m probably absolutely looking too far into the name of White Day as something bad, but I digress.

Actually, in a different ranting vein, seems that all the holidays on the 14th of each month are kind of like Love Day. White day is another one of these holidays seemingly made by the chocolate companies in order to entice people to buy sweets and candies.

On this particular demi-holiday, men give chocolate sweets to their girlfriends to let them know nothing has changed and you’re still just as cute as you were the day we met although now that i think about it you don’t try as much anymore, you make me feel bad for hanging out with my drinking buddies, and you boss me around more than your little brother but oh well you still like them.

As you can imagine, this day can get a little repetitious for older couples. Just like in America, married couples might exchange more expensive gifts on such couple days to keep with the spirit of the day without resorting the same gift as last year.

Isn't she cute?

White Day should be a fun day and it’s one of the more noticeable 14th holidays (as opposed to Kiss Day - nope, I didn’t make that one up). This day is also quite predictably a couple day much like Christmas in Korea. But for those of you who get shucked on March 14th, hold your innermost emo-ness for 30 more days to celebrate how miserable you really are that you’re not alone on Black day with other dateless bums single friends.

See you in a month, fellow Black Dayers.

Jaded much? Thoughts?

March First Movement - 삼일 운동 (Korean Independence)

삼일 운동 (만세운동).

Two days ago was a very important holiday for Korea.

Like most nations, many historically important holidays mark a day that symbolizes a particular feeling or thought. In Texas, we have the Battle of the Alamo. This was a tragic military loss in every sense of the word during the Texas Revolution. Yes, a failure - the well-trained Mexican army outnumbered the beleaguered defenders 10 to 1. In fact, Mexican Army General Santa Anna even gave the defenders a chance to surrender. If you know Texas, then you can guess which finger the defenders raised in response. Essentially, the Mexican army ended up slaughtering just about everyone inside. However, this seemingly foolish decision to fight the organized Mexican army ended up inspiring others to take up arms against Mexico and eventually led to Mexico’s defeat and Texas’s independence a month later.

This battle is studied today because it represents Texans’ courage, determination, and pride - even though it was a bloody loss that had a snowball’s chance in hell of ending in victory - not to mention that plenty of people who defended the Alamo weren’t even from Texas.

I bring up this comparison because 삼일 운동 represents something similar to Korea. On March 1st, 1919 Korean underground fighters declared themselves independent of the Japanese colonial rule. In response, a combined Japanese force made up of police and military killed approximately seven thousand unarmed protesters. Japanese rule would continue for another 26 years (1910-1945).

This day helps to represent Korean nationalism. It was a revolt started primarily by students inspired by a speech by American president Woodrow Wilson. With or without the speech, this was a long time coming as the tension had been mounting for years. Like “Remember the Alamo” after the original 33 protesters were arrested it sparked support in ordinary civilians nationwide. A month after the initial protest, a provincial government was setup in Shanghai to carry out the wishes and desires of Koreans seeking independence from Japan.

This day was linked to anti-Japanese sentiment years after the fact but was originally designed to be a peaceful, nonviolent movement. Unfortunately, its brutal suppression is what likely makes it so famous now. It is now regarded as one of the most important events in Korean independence history. Since then, efforts have been made to restore native Korean architecture set in place prior to Japanese occupation.

Protestors - circa 1919

I wonder if events like the March First Movement are taught in school the same way that the Alamo is taught. I have to be honest, in Texas, the Alamo story is told fairly biased with a heavy emphasis on the bravery and courage demonstrated by the defenders. In the case of March First, at what point in a student’s academic career is it taught in Korea? Is the March First Movement even taught in Japan? Does the everyday Korean  student even care anymore about events that transpired almost one hundred years ago? I understand that it’s a fairly sensitive subject even to this day but I’m curious in a academic sense how Korean history is taught.


Happy New Year (again) - the real New Years party - 설날

설날 is where it’s at.

Hey, it wouldn’t be KoreanClass101 without a culture class on this holiday.

You might be wondering why this new year is not on the same day as our traditional new years party in the West. Because just like all other complicated math concepts in Korea, this holiday is based on the lunar calendar and not the solar calendar. The solar calendar is what we receive in the mail for free from the ASPCA and the like. The lunar calendar is what changes from year to year. Here’s a 2009 list of solar and lunar holidays in Korea.

So, if it seems like Koreans were late to your New Years party by a few weeks, that’s the problem. Plus, solar new year is not as big of a deal in many Asian countries, not just Korea (excluding Japan). However, Koreans do something on January 1st, too. Typically, solar new year’s eve is a couple day in Korea while it’s more of a party-until-you-can’t-remember-where-you-parked holiday In America usually spent with friends. By the same token,  설날 is practically nonexistent in America and known more commonly as Chinese New Year. This title, I’m sure, is offensive to other cultures (like Vietnamese, Indian, etc) who celebrate Lunar New Year quite differently than the Chinese but at similar times. However, I guess that’s just the name of the game in America.

What this celebration means to most Koreans is that it’s a time for one of the biggest family get-togethers. For younger family members it means 세뱃돈, 세배, and lots of questions about school. For older family members it means 성묘, 차례, and possibly wearing 한복. For everyone involved it means traveling, partying, good food, and close quarters. Allow this unnaturally perfect photo to demonstrate:


As far as entertainment (other than kind provided by 소주) two games come to mind: 윷놀이 and 화투.  Can you believe I found a yutnori iPhone app? As far as food, 떡국 is the staple. It’s just not 설날 without 떡국. It’s like the square/rectangle relationship. All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, right? Well, you can eat 떡국 on a day other than 설날 but 설날 must have 떡국.

Does anyone have a story about their experiences with 설날? How about Korean New Years versus your own culture’s new year celebration.

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Nice little thing to wakeup to...