North Korea and South Korea sit between China in the East and Japan in the West. South Korea and North Korea split after WWII. This collection is a mix of North Korean and South Korean holidays and some holidays that both share. Even though the two countries were united for most of the 20th century, their celebrations are very different.
Like the Japanese, South Koreans also celebrate Valentine's Day on February 14th and White Day on March 14th. Single Koreans then take it a step further and celebrate Black Day on April 14th, when they get together to eat noodles with black bean sauce and complain about being single. With Pepero Day and Black Day, South Koreans have four holidays all about love!
South Korea celebrates Buddha's birthday, or "Bucheonim osin nal," which means "the day the Buddha arrived." This is a festival that occurs in May. The entire month of May, South Korean temples fly beautiful colored lotus lanterns. On the actual day of the Buddha's birth, temples give away free food and tea to all visitors.
Chulseok is celebrated in North and South Korea on July 7th. It is a festival based on the folktale of "The Cowherd Prince and the Weaving Maiden" and it signals the end of hot summer weather and the beginning of monsoon season. Traditional foods are wheat-based pancakes and noodles, since wheat crops start to struggle as the weather gets colder.
Dano is a spring festival that falls on the same day as the Chinese Dragon Boat festival, a Stamp you'll find in the Chinese Holidays collection. On this day, women used to wash their hair in water boiled with special herbs. While that doesn't happen anymore, men still play a special wrestling game to celebrate the coming of spring.
Celebrated in both North and South Korea, Hansik is the spring festival. It falls on April 5th, the 105th day of the Korean calendar. An ancient tradition of this day is the practice of only eating cold foods. Hansik occurs around the same time as Arbor Day around the world, so a new tradition is planting trees and shrubs.
Harvest Festival Day, also called Chuseok or Hangawi, is a fall harvest festival. Koreans eat rice cakes steamed on pine needles and head back to their hometowns for a festival that's like American Thanksgiving. They get together with their extended family and visit ancestral grave sites to remember their roots.
Just like South Korea founded the Republic of Korea in 1948, North Korea founded the Democratic People's Republic of Korea that same year on September 9th. North Koreans still celebrate that day as their own Independence Day from their union with South Korea and also their freedom from Japan's imperial rule.
Koreans have a modern calendar, however, Korean New Year is one of the only holidays they still celebrate according to a lunar calendar, of a calendar regulated by the moon. New Year's Day is day 1 of month 1 of the lunar calendar. Families bow to elders, leave offerings at ancestral graves and exchange gifts with friends, family and neighbors.
Liberation Day is a holiday celebrated on August 15th, also called V-J Day or the anniversary of Japan's 1945 surrender at the end of World War II. It is celebrated in both North and South Korea, even though Korea did not get its own leaders until 1948. Liberation Day is a four-day festival to celebrate freedom from oppression.
South Koreans celebrate National Foundation Day on October 3rd. It celebrates the myth that Korea was founded by King Dangun in 2333 B.C. The name of the festival in Korean means "the day the sky opened," because Koreans believe that they are direct descendants of Heaven or a heavenly god.
If Pepero sounds familiar to you, that means you might have eaten the chocolate coated stick candy. Pepero Day is an unofficial holiday in South Korea that many young people celebrate. It's like Valentine's Day! Friends and couples exchange Pepero candy and other romantic presents. Mmm, what a delicious holiday.
The festival of the First Full Moon is celebrated by both South and North Korea and timed according to the lunar calendar. There are kite flying ceremonies and moon viewing. This holiday inspires a lot of mountain and roof climbers because it is said that the first person to see the moon will have good luck all year.