May….Family Month in Korea

by Anne Ladouceur, 26/04/2009

In South Korea, May is a month of holidays and special days of recognition. The month kicks off with Labor Day followed by Buddha’s birthday on May 2nd.  And in case you’re wondering why you have Tuesday 5 May off, it’s because Children’s Day (어린이 날) on May 5th continues to be a statutory holiday. Two other days of recognition, Parent’s Day (어버이 날) on May 8th and Teacher’s Day on (스승의 날) on May 15th are not, although many schools close on Teacher’s Day as a way of dealing with the practice of giving expensive gifts to teachers on Teacher’s Day and all that that implied.

On Parent’s Day children traditionally give carnations to their parents as do students to their teachers. Adults will also sometimes visit their formers teachers to give them carnations as a thank you for their past work. Some schools organize special outings for their staff on the 15th since Teacher’s Day is not a holiday for the teachers themselves.

Children’s Day is a holiday so that, in a country where fathers especially work very long hours and therefore often see little of their children, both parents can spend time with their children. Entry to most national museums is free and there are a number of special events on offer for families. Click here  for more information – please note that we will be updating the information as soon as we learn about more activities for children and their parents. Various restaurants will offer special menus and activities to attract families on Tuesday the 5th. Also, on that day, the nation’s various theme parks will be doing the same.

Many expats will celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday May 10th. About 100 of the world’s countries pay homage to mothers in May, while some other mark the day in other months (United Kingdom and Ireland celebrate the day on the fourth Sunday of Lent – March 22nd this year). The first North American Mother’s Day observance is said to have been on May 10th, 1908 and those present received white carnations because they were supposed to represent the sweetness, purity and endurance of a mother’s love. As in Korean, carnations remain the traditional flower of choice for Mother’s Day, but these days, a white carnation is in remembrance of a mother who has died, while red carnations have become the symbol of a living mother.

The month starts off with Labor Day on May 1st. On this day most government employees will have the day off and banks will be closed.  Some private sector employers will also be giving their staff the day off. As the day fall on a Friday this year and Children’s Day, a statutory holiday is the following Tuesday, many workers in both the private and public sectors will have arrange to take the Monday off as well. That said, Monday May 4th is not a holiday so banks and government offices can be expected to be open.

A Happy Labor Day to all of us and to those to whom it applies, Happy Buddha’s Birthday, Happy Children’s Day, Happy Parent’s Day, Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Teacher’s Day!

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