Early Koreans followed the lunisolar calendar as did most agrarian societies. According to the lunar calendar the dates were calculated based on the Korean meridian and its observances. Festivals are celebrated based on the Korean Culture. The Gregorian calendar was officially adopted in 1895. The Lunar calendar is still used by many of the countries to keep track of births and deaths and some traditional holidays. Many people celebrate their birthdays according to both calendars because of the difficulty in completely abandoning the Lunar calendar. The first days of each calendar are national holidays.
There are three major festivals celebrated according to the Lunar calendar. They are as follows.
* New Year’s (Seol-nal): Koreans believe in the Lunar as well as the solar calendars, so they are forced to celebrate the New Years based on both of them. The day before and the day after the first new moon are holidays so the Korea’s have a total of three days to welcome and greet the New year. They have a lot of fun during this period. The highways are completely jammed with families visiting their hometowns and paying respects at the ancestors’ graves.
* Buddha’s Birthday (Seokka Tanshin-i) Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month mostly being the month of May. They have a great celebration where the Buddhist monks spruce up their temples and hang colorful lanterns. Many of the temples also hold festivals and parades as part of the celebration.
* Harvest Moon Festival (Chuseok): The Harvest moon festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, and is similar to the American Thanksgiving holidays. It’s a three day celebration, where the day before and after the actual day are holidays. It is a festival of reunion where the people rush to visit their family members. During this period people jam the highways to pay respect to their living relatives and visit the graves of their ancestors. Family members exchange gifts and play special games.
There are nine major festivals celebrated according to the Solar calendar. They are as follows.
* New Year’s– Koreans celebrate both the solar new year as well as the Lunar New Year. In addition to January 1st, the 2nd is also a holiday. The first day back at work after the holidays is usually a time of speeches looking forward to the coming business year and thinking about measures to bring about a difference.
* Independence Movement Day– March 1, 1919, marked the beginning of the Korean Independence Movement It was on this day that the Korean independence fighters announced Korea’s declaration of independence from Japanese colonialism.
* Arbor Day– April 5 is designated by the government as the Korean Arbor Day because of the devastation and deforestation of the Korean War. This is the time where all the citizens plant trees and other plants. This day serves as a reminder to respect nature and the environment.
* Children’s Day– May 5th represents a day of celebration for children, both young and old. Amusements parks, zoos, and national parks become crowded with families enjoying the holiday in the spring weather.
* Memorial Day– A day set aside for citizens to remember those who died for their country. Celebrated on the 6th of June to honor Civilians and soldiers.
* Constitution Day– It was on the 17th of July 1984 when the Republic of Korea’s Constitution was proclaimed. A day of celebrations and memorials recognizes the cornerstone of the new republic.
* Liberation Day– With the official surrender of Japan to the Allied forces on August 15, 1945, the 35-years colonization of Korea by the Japanese came to an end. August 15, 1948 also marks the establishment of the Republic of Korea. A memorable day with regard to the Koreans.
* Foundation Day– According to legend the finding of a Kingdom by the god-king Tan-gun in 2333 B.C is the reason behind such a celebration. It is celebrated on October 3rd .This day fills citizens with nationalistic pride over the 4,000+ year history of Korea.
* Christmas Day– Koreans celebrate Christmas on Dec 25th. A large number of Korean Christians ensure that this is a time for celebration. Due to its proximity to the end of the year, many Koreans prefer to give New Year gifts instead of Christmas gifts. But they enjoy themselves on Christmas Day.