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Korean calendar

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The traditional Korean calendar is a lunisolar calendar which, like the traditional calendars of other East Asian countries, was based on the Chinese calendar. Dates are calculated from Korea's meridian, and observances and festivals are based in Korean culture.[1]

The Gregorian calendar was officially adopted in 1895, but traditional holidays and age-reckoning for older generations are still based on the old calendar.[2][3] The biggest festival in Korea today is Seol-nal (Unfamiliar day), the traditional Korean New Year. Other important festivals include Daeboreum (the first full moon), Dano (spring festival) and Chuseok (harvest festival).

See also Public holidays in North Korea and Public holidays in South Korea.



The traditional calendar designated its years via Korean era names from 270 to 963. Then Chinese era names were used until 1895 when the official use of the lunar calendar ceased.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted by the new Korean Empire on 1 January 1895, but with years numbered from the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty in 1393. From 1897, Korean era names were used for its years until Japan annexed Korea in 1910. Then Japanese era names were used to count the years of the Gregorian calendar used in Korea until Japanese occupation ended in 1945.

From 1945 until 1961 in South Korea, Gregorian calendar years were counted from the foundation of Gojoseon in 2333 BCE (regarded as year one), the date of the legendary founding of Korea by Dangun, hence these Dangi (단기) years were 4278 to 4294. This numbering was informally used with the Korean lunar calendar before 1945 but is only occasionally used today.

In North Korea, the Juche calendar has been used since 1997 to number its years, based on the birth of Kim Il Sung.


  • The Chinese zodiac of 12 Earthly Branches (animals), which were used for counting hours and years;
  • Ten Heavenly Stems, which were combined with the 12 Earthly Branches to form a sixty-year cycle;
  • Twenty-four solar terms (jeolgi 節氣 절기) in the year, spaced roughly 15 days apart;
  • Lunar months including leap months added every two or three years.


The lunar calendar is used for the observation of traditional festivals, such as Korean New Year, Chuseok, and Buddha's Birthday. It is also used for jesa memorial services for ancestors and the marking of birthdays by older Koreans.

Traditional holidays

Festival Significance Events Date (lunar) Food Seol-nalLunar New Year's Day An ancestral service is offered before the grave of the ancestors, New Year's greetings are exchanged with family, relatives and neighbours; bows to elders (sebae), yutnori. See also Chinese New Yearand East Asian age reckoningDay 1 of Month 1 sliced rice cake in soup (tteokguk), honey cakes (yakwa). DaeboreumFirst full moon Greeting of the moon (dalmaji), kite-flying, talisman burning to ward evil spirits (aengmagi taeugi), bonfires (daljip taegi) Day 15 of Month 1 rice boiled with five grains (ogokbap), nut eating (bureom), wine drinking (gwibalgisul) Meoseumnal Festival for servants Housecleaning, coming of age ceremony, fishermen's shaman rite (yeongdeunggut) Day 1 of Month 2 stuffed pine-flavoured rice cakes (songpyeon) Samjinnal Migrant swallows return Leg fighting, fortune telling Day 3 of Month 3 Azalea wine (dugyonju), pancake (dungyeon hwajeon) HansikBeginning of farming season Visit to ancestral grave for offering rite, and cleaning and maintenance. See also Ching Ming FestivalDay 105 after winter solsticecold food only: mugwort cake (ssuktteok), mugwort dumplings (ssukdanja), mugwort soup (ssuktang) ChopailBuddha's birthdayLantern festival Day 8 of Month 4 rice cake (jjinddeok), flower cake (hwajeon) DanoSpring festival Washing hair with iriswater, ssireum, swinging, giving fans as gifts Day 5 of Month 5 rice cake with herbs (surichitteok), herring soup (junchiguk) YuduWater greeting Water greeting, washing hair to wash away bad luck Day 15 of Month 6 Five coloured noodles (yudumyeon), rice dumplings (sudan) ChilseokMeeting day of Gyeonwoo and Jiknyeo, in Korean folk tale Fabric weaving Day 7 of Month 7 wheat pancake (milijeonbyeong), rice cake with red beans (sirutteok) Baekjung Worship to Buddha Worship to Buddha Day 15 of Month 7 mixed rice cake (seoktanbyeong) ChuseokHarvest festival Visit to ancestral grave, ssireum, offering earliest rice grain (olbyeosinmi), circle dance (ganggang suwollae) Day 15 of Month 8 pine flavoured rice cake stuffed with chestnuts, sesame or beans (songpyeon), taro soup (torantang) Jungyangjeol Migrant sparrows leave Celebrating autumn with poetry and painting, composing poetry, enjoying nature. See also Chung Yeung FestivalDay 9 of Month 9 chrysanthemum pancake (gukhwajeon), roe (eoran), honey citron tea (yujacheong) DongjiWinter SolsticeRites to dispel bad spirits Around December 22 in the solar calendar redbean soup with rice dumplings (patjuk) Seotdal Geumeum New Year's EveStaying up all night long with all doors open to receive ancestral spirits Last day of Month 12 mixed rice with vegetables (bibimbap), bean powder rice cakes (injeolmi), traditional biscuits (hangwa)

There are also many regional festivals celebrated according to the lunar calendar.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Korean Holidays

The Folkloric Study of Chopail (Buddha's Birthday), by Prof. M.Y.Pyeon. Produced by Minsokwon in Seoul Korea,2002.

Categories: Korean culture | Specific calendars

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