Part four: South Korean celebrations and festivals.
by Jonathan Last @JonathanLast1
Author of Teaching English with Chopsticks: TEFL from the Frontline
Despite its Buddhist heritage and the large number of temples scattered around the countryside, South Korea is a predominantly Christian country; therefore Christmas is a national holiday. However, there is only one day off as a national holiday, so you’ll be working the day before and after. There is also a solitary day’s holiday for New Year’s Day. Both events are celebrated with less fervour than in the West, with little of the same decoration and festivity.
Much more important is the Korean New Year, AKA the Lunar New Year, celebrated on the first day of the lunar calendar. Since this is dependent on the moon’s cycle, its date varies from mid-January to mid-February. It is a time for family celebration, with ancestral rituals performed whilst wearing traditional hanbok dress.
1st March is Korea’s Independence Day, commemorating the country’s 1919 release from its Japanese neighbours. The season brings many other ‘days’ besides: Valentine’s on 14th February has women giving men chocolate and not vice versa; however, the favour is returned exactly a month later on the same date in March when the males give presents back on White Day. 14th April is known as Black Day, where single people commiserate each other for not having anyone to give or receive presents with over black noodles. Children’s Day takes place on 5th May with Parents’ Day following on the 8th; the former is a national holiday, the latter is not.
One of the highlights of the summer is The Boryeong Mud Festival, on Deacheon beach, approximately 200km south of Seoul. Mud is taken from the Boryeong mud flats, and transported to the beach where revellers can cover each other with it and then jump into the sea to wash off. Boryeong itself can also be visited for the full-on mud experience.
Arguably the most important festival of the year is Chuseok, the autumn harvest festival and another three-day holiday. Korean’s travel the length and breadth of the country to be with their families and celebrate their good fortune together with a feast of traditional food and drink.
Jonathan Last’s humorous autobiographical novel “Teaching with Chopsticks: TEFL from the Frontline” is available to download to PC, smart phone and various e-book readers, such as Kindle, Kobo and Nook.
You can watch a video interview with him about the book on his blog.