With May fast approaching, a big holiday in Korea is coming up. That’s Children’s Day (May 5th) – one of my favorite holidays by default since I was a Kindergarten teacher for quite some time! Whether you have kids, teach kids, or still feel like a kid, this national holiday offers a lot of great ways to celebrate for young and old kids alike.
What’s so great about Children’s Day?
Children’s Day is known in Korea as orininal (어린이날). Orini translates to ‘children’ and nal translates to ‘day’. Legend has it that the date was set as May 5th because 5/5 is easy for children to remember! It’s definitely the time of year where Korean children seem the happiest. Not only because of the holiday, but because the weather is finally getting warm allowing for plenty of fun, outdoor activities.
Many countries around the world have Children’s Day, but Korea is rare in that it’s celebrated as a public holiday. That means everyone gets the day off! If there wasn’t anything else to like about it, this would be enough for me.
Why create a holiday just for kids?
Children’s Day is a unique holiday with a lot of reasoning behind its creation. Firstly, Children’s Day aims to instill independence in the country’s youth. It also highlights the need for children to be loved, cared for, and respected by society. Children’s Day helps to instill national pride in the country’s youth, while simultaneously honoring adults (parents, grandparents, caretakers, nannies, teachers, doctors, etc.) who have contributed to improving the lives of children.
What are some of the most common activities on Children’s Day?
There are a plethora of things to do on this wonderful holiday! Nearly every city in Korea holds its own parade, so you can check your local website for more information. Additionally, there are plenty of free activities available to the public on this holiday. Some popular places to visit are museums, movie theaters, and community centers (주민센터; jumin center).
If you’re looking to spend the day outside, a popular place to go is a local zoo. Seoul Grand Park and Children’s Grand Park are the most famous in Seoul*. Additionally, as many children learn Taekwondo in Korea, Taekwondo centers often have free shows and classes on this day. Baseball and soccer teams might also be offering some unique experiences for children. If I can make a personal suggestion, I can think of no better way to spend my day than a picnic on the Han River or in Seoul Forest.
No matter how you spend your day, the evening is the perfect time to head home and play some traditional games with the kids such as yutnori (윷놀이) and gangangsullae (강강술레).
*Pinpoint Korea does not support any zoos outside of rescue and rehabilitation zoos.
How long has Children’s Day been around?
Although Children’s Day is celebrated in very modern ways, its history goes back to the early 20th century. Children’s author Bang Jeong-hwan (방정환) invented the holiday in 1923. As is the case with most countries during that time, Bang put an emphasis on the development of boys and officially titled the holiday ‘Boy’s Day’. This title remained until 1975 when it was made a national holiday and changed to Children’s Day.
What about a Parent’s Day?
There is, in fact, a Parent’s Day! Parent’s Day is known as obeoinal (어버이날) and is celebrated on May 8th. Sadly, this isn’t a national holiday, but children will likely give you a carnation as a gift. The holiday was originally Mother’s Day, but with no Father’s Day, the government decided to combine the two.
Teacher’s Day is May 15th. Similar to Parent’s Day, students are expected to give teachers carnations or small treats like candy and cake. This isn’t a national holiday either, but as a former teacher, it was enjoyable despite having to go to work. Chocolate definitely helped me get through my day!