You know about the BIG holidays in Korea, such as Chuseok, and Seollal. But there are a lot of other holidays that are a big part of life here. Usually, Koreans work very hard. They study hard, they work long hours at work. So, that means that when they get free time, they use it to the best of their ability. This leads to some really culturally enriched holidays that are relatively new. They are important for the younger generations, and people are getting into them more and more with each passing year. For example, Christmas used to be seen as only a religious holiday for Christians, and then a couple's holiday. But these days it has become more accepted as a much larger holiday. The same goes for Halloween. Before, only foreigners used to celebrate Halloween. However, now it is becoming a much more significant part of Korean culture. Like these two, there are a variety of interesting and unique holidays, and also some variations that you should know before coming to Korea.
January 1st, New Year’s Day!
I’ll start from the top, January 1st! Yes, New Year’s is celebrated all around the world. Yes, you probably know about it. But this is EXTREMELY important to know. Did you know that people in Korea have a different aging system? That’s right! People in Korea use a different measurement when saying their age. Everyone who is born in the same year is the same age. Whether born December 31st, 1995 or January 1st, 1995, you would be the same age even if the date hasn’t passed yet. Your age would be 24.
How does the system work? Take your age as if your birthday has passed and add one. So, my birthday is actually December 25th, 1990. In the U.S., my age is 27 because my birthday hasn’t passed yet. So, I need to add one to make it match from January, and then add one more because everyone starts at one and not zero. So, I am 29 Korean age. It is very confusing at first. And having lived here for more than 3 years, I constantly forget what both of my ages are.
Why is this SO important? Your age determines nearly everything in Korea. The older you are the more respectful people are supposed to treat you. If you are older, in Korea, younger people generally can’t say bad things to you. They can’t correct you. They also have to turn their heads away from you while drinking alcohol. But most important is the Korean terminology and meaning of the word friend. The Korean word for friend is only used for people who are the same age as you. It is most similar to the word ‘peer’. So, if you meet someone born in the same year, usually one of you should exclaim, ‘oh! We’re friends!’.
Couple (And Solo) Holidays!
If you are in a relationship or in a dating situation, you really need to know these. And if you think this doesn’t apply to you because you are solo, the student way of saying not in a relationship, think again! Couple holidays are not only important if you’re in a relationship or dating, but it is important to know because your students will talk to you about them. You need to stay up on your knowledge to earn the respect of your students.
February 14th, Valentine’s Day (Single Awareness Day)
Think you know Valentine’s Day? Try again. Valentine’s day is a bit different here. Usually on Valentine’s day we have an image of a boy with flowers and chocolates waiting patiently for his girlfriend to come. Or where a couple are sitting down at a nice meal and exchanging gifts. But men, I have good news!
What could be different? Valentine’s day in Korea is when the guy gets chocolate. That’s right. Women do not get chocolate on Valentine’s day. They get naughta, zip, nil, nothing. They are actually the ones who are supposed to give gifts. Unique isn’t it? Typically though, that’s where the difference stop. But it is such a unique difference it important to note. For example, if your students complain about not getting chocolate, guys you have a reason now.
March 14th, White Day (Like Valentine’s Day, but Women Get Chocolate)
Here you go! March 14th is White Day. It is exactly like Valentine’s day, but in reverse. This is the day in Korea when women get chocolate from their men. Think of it as payback for all of the chocolate you got on Valentine’s day. But if you, sir, forget about White Day, it might be the end.
That’s it for now! I hope you got some valuable information about Korea’s Holidays. I’ll be back for part two soon.
Neil Frazer has been teaching with Chungdahm for a little over three years. He comes from a small town in Wisconsin, named Spooner and graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a Bachelor's of Social Work. After traveling to Korea in college he quickly fell in love the culture, food, and quality of life that Korea has to offer and immediately knew he wanted to come back. He looks forward to sharing his experiences of living in Korea and working at the Pyeongchon branch, near Seoul.