May for Families

May for Family

About one month has passed since the cherry blossoms around the city had signalled the start of Spring. Now as you look up the calendar, you may have noticed that it is almost the end of April. Flip just one page, May is awaiting. In Korea, May is called “the family month”. Not only the spring weather makes a perfect day for family picnic, but also, in May are a lot of anniversaries related to family affairs. Today’s post is going to introduce to you some of the important events held in May: what they are for and how people celebrate those days.

(Public holidays are written in red)

May 1: Workers’ Day (Labor Day)

May-day, also called Labor Day, has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement during the Industrial Revolution in England, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

In South Korea, the first event for labor rights was initiated by Chosun Labor Union in May 1, 1923 during the Japanese colonization. About 2000 of people gathered for reduction of working hours, wage increases and unemployment prevention. After the liberation, the date had been set to March 10th and the name had been changed from Labor Day to Workers’ Day. However, those unions and organizations recognized that they still had to fight against unfairness and corruption going on in labor environment even after. Then in order to remember the meaning of the first Labor Day, Workers’ Day was moved back to May 1 in 1994.

Unfortunately even now, many Koreans still have to go to work on Labor Day. Also, this year’s Workers’ Day is on Sunday, so no extra day off :(


May 5: Children’s Day

Children’s Day was first established in 1923 by Bang Jeong-Hwan. Bang was a pioneer-author of Korean children’s literature as well as a children’s rights activist. He also coined the term “어린이” which means child in an effort to give the same respect to young aged people as to adults. The purpose of Children’s Day is to ensure an environment where children can grow in love and safety and recognize those who have contributed to the overall improvement of child security. Nowadays, parents usually prepare presents for their kids on Childrens’ Day. Many elementary school kids imagine what they will get for each year’s Children’s Day just like they do on birthdays.


May 8: Parents’ Day

Parents’ Day is a day for showing gratitude to elders and commemorating sacrifices parents and grandparents have made for family. It was first established in 1956 as Mother’s Day and changed to Parents’ Day in 1973. There is a supposition that those fathers who were jealous of Mother’s Day rose against not having Father’s Day, and ended up changing the name into Parents’ Day. On Parents’ Day, people get to think of the meaning of filial piety. One special tradition about Parents’ Day is that sons and daughters prepare carnations for their parents. In schools, students usually write letters saying thank you to their parents and make paper carnations.


May 14: Buddha’s Birthday

Buddha’s Birthday is April 8th by lunar calendar. This year, it is May 14th. Influenced by Buddhist culture and history, South Korea set Buddha’s Birthday as a national holiday in 1975, and has celebrated it since then. It is the biggest event of the year for Buddhists, so many traditional temple activities and prayer nights are held during the week. Temples start to decorate the city with lotus lanterns several weeks ahead. Even non-Buddhist citizens visit temples to watch the beautiful lights and feel the scent of forest. Buddha’s Birthday is also celebrated among other Asian countries influenced by Buddhism such as Nepal, China and Japan.


May 15: Teachers’ Day

Teachers’ Day was first established in 1963 by Junior Red Cross members visiting their retired school teachers. At that time, it was set on May 26th. In 1965, the date was changed to May 15, which is King Sejong’s Birthday and has been celebrated until now. Many countries have their own ways to celebrate Teachers’ Day. In South Korea, people usually visit schools they graduated from on Teachers’ Day to meet old teachers. Just like on Parents’ Day, it is tradition to present carnations or other flowers for appreciation. There is also a song for Teachers’ Day.

You can check out on Youtube:


May 16: Come-of-Age

Coming-of-Age Day is on Monday of the third week of May every year. In South Korea, those who are over 19 are considered mature, which means they become eligible for vote and legally allowed to buy alcohol and cigar. Those young adults who are or are going to be nineteen-year-old in the current year get to celebrate Coming-of-Age Day. (For example, those born in 1997 are 19 or going to be 19 this year) The purpose is to make them become responsible for their own life and confident as grown-ups. Nowadays, the way to celebrate has become somewhat commercialized. Young adults receive roses, perfume and a kiss. Roses mean be a passionate person. Perfume means never forget the resolution you have made as an adult. Kiss means know the meaning of real love.


May 20: Together Day

Together Day is a newly set anniversary compared to other days. It was first established in 2007 to promote a healthy society for both Korean citizens and immigrants. Originally, UN set May 21 “World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development”. However, it overlapped with Husband and Wife’ Day in Korea, so instead, the government set the day before as Together Day. As the number of immigrants and tourists into the nation increases each year, it is becoming even more important to understand cultural and ethnical diversity. The 9th celebration of Together Day will be held at Grand Peace Palace in KyungHee University under the slogan of “Vibrant Korea growing with immigrants”. More information is available at

Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recently announced starting from May 1st is 2016 Travellers’ Week. Over 10,000 tourist attractions are having special programs during the two weeks. Some places will be offering discounts on entrance fees. So why not join us for the family month?



Sources: 2016 여행주간


Article by Sangeun from Korea, a Junior in Business Administration

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