Love Days in Korea

Couples in Korea have special days each month, on the 14th day, to celebrate their love for each other. Each month has its own theme, so what better way to start out the new year than with celebrating your love. lovefingerscropped

Having a love day each month might sound cumbersome or like it’s commercializing love. But honestly, most of them are simple and some don’t involve buying at all. Besides, there’s no such thing as over expressing your love for someone, right? Here’s the list.

January 14–Diary Day (calendars/daily planners or diaries are exchanged and special days are written in)
February 14–Valentine’s Day (girls give guys gifts, usually chocolates)
March 14–White Day (guys give girls gifts, see March 14 post)
April 14–Black Day (see Black Day post)
May 14–Rose Day/Yellow Day (Couples exchange roses and wear yellow on this day, while single people eat curry. If you want to attract a mate, it is apparently to wear something yellow or eat something that is yellow.)
June 14–Kiss Day (self explanatory; makes a great day for a first kiss)
July 14–Silver Day (exchange gifts of silver, like charms or couples rings)
August 14–Green Day (spend time outside while wearing green; singles can drink soju–which comes in a green bottle–on this day and lament their single status)
September 14–Photo Day (take many photos of each other and photos together)
October 14–Wine Day (self-explanatory, I think)
November 14–Movie Day/Cookie Day (take a movie with your date; give your child a cookie)
December 14–Hug Day (hugging chases away the winter blues)

So there you have it–a complete list of Korea’s love days. The most popular ones, of course, are Feb. 14, March 14, and April 14. But I think love days are a fun idea, and would be something especially fun for families to observe with younger kids. They would probably really get into the idea of celebrating a holiday every month.


Chuseok 2015

This weekend marks the Korean holiday of Chuseok, a traditional harvest festival. As most of you probably already know, the date of the holiday follows the lunar calendar so the holiday falls on a different date on the Gregorian calendar. This year the Chuseok holiday is Sept. 27.

My husband is traveling for work on Chuseok, so our family celebrated a week early with a homemade Korean meal. Likely the little guy and I will play yut nori and eat Korean again on the actual date of Chuseok.

If you’re wondering what to cook for the holiday, here are a couple of ideas from Korean Bapsang. The Galbijjim recipe can even be prepared in the slow cooker for added convenience. According to Hyosun, the owner of Korean Bapsang, both of these dishes are traditional ones to prepare for Chuseok. My family can personally recommend both. Yum!

In Korea, Chuseok is about spending time with family and honoring ancestors. I highlighted ways to incorporate honoring ancestors in my 2011 Chuseok post. But I thought I’d add another suggestioKoreanChildren'sFavoriteStoriesn for families celebrating Chuseok.

Tuttle Publishing offers several books covering Korean culture or language. Their book, Korean Children’s Favorite Stories by Kim So-Un, is an English-language book filled with folk tales that have been told by Korean families for generations. Some of the stories are unique to Korea, while the plot line of some will be familiar. The illustrations by Jeong Kyoung-Sim are wonderfully done in a Korean style that resembles paintings done on ancient Korean screens.

This book would be a wonderful addition to a family’s library and a fun way to share Korean culture with your children.

만우절 (April Fools Day)

Not sure how I’ve missed this over the last nine years, but somehow I didn’t know until this year that April Fools Day is big in Korea. It was big on our house this year for the first time–9-year-olds are all about jokes! So maybe it was fitting that I learned of Korean student pranks this year.

In Korea, the holiday is called 만우절 (pronounced “ma-noo-jawl), which is translated “very foolish holiday). From what I’ve read, on this day you have to suspect of everything said or done to you. Whole classes in school get together to pull pranks on the teachers.

You can check out some of the most used 만우절 ideas here:




Seolnal 2014

One of the biggest Korean holidays is coming up on Jan. 31. Seolnal is the Korean lunar new year. It is one of a handful of Korean holidays that are celebrated according to the lunar calendar, meaning that the actual date fluctuates from year to you on our calendar.

Our kids doing saebae last year.

Our kids doing saebae last year.

This is a great holiday to celebrate with your family and friends. Traditionally Koreans make a big feast and honor their ancestors. Children honor their older relatives with a formal bow (saebae) for which they receive money (saebae ton). And families often play games like yut nori. You can find the game on Ebay:

Learn how to say Happy New Year in Korean: 새해 복 많이 받으세요. It literally means, I wish you good blessings in the new year. Here is a video that will help you with pronunciation.

Jan. 31 marks the beginning of the year of the horse. Do you know your Korean zodiac sign? If not, check out this site.

It has a calculator that you enter your birthday into and it will tell you your sign. At the top of the page, there is also a category marked “Elements.” To get your full Korean zodiac sign you have to know your elementy (metal, water, wood, fire, earth).

If you’ve read Linda Sue Park’s book Archer’s Quest, you know how important it is to know your element.

The traditional food for Seolnal is tteokguk, which is rice cake soup. Here’s a great recipe for it:

I know it’s early but to all of you I say: 새해 복 많이 받으세요! I hope you each have a wonderful Seolnal.

Children’s Day–May 5

Sunday, May 5, is Children’s Day in Korea. It is a day that children are celebrated and indulged, a day for doing fun things as a family and eating the childrens’ favorite foods.

The Korea Blog, an English-language blog run by (which is the official web page of the Republic of Korea), recently shared a post entitled “Korea’s Children’s Day and Bang Jeong-hwan.” The post explains the history of the holiday and tells about the man who started it.

So check it out before heading out for your Children’s Day adventure.


Seolnal School Presentation

So Monday, my exchange student, my son, and I will do a Seolnal (lunar new year) presentation for our student’s class. Since I know lots of families give presentations around this time of year, I thought I’d share what we’re doing. The class is upper elementary, but this presentation idea could be adapted for any age class, I think.

First we’re doing an introduction, which will include a brief history of Korea (how it’s 5,000 years old vs. the US being only 238 years old, and how for most of that time it was one country). During the introduction we’ll hand out maps of Korea that we found in one of the curriculums listed in the bar at right.

Next, we’ll give a brief “class” on the Korean language. We’ll explain how and when the alphabet was developed, show the kids the alphabet (and give them handouts of the alphabet), and teach them to say hello and thank you in Korean

Since our exchange student is only here for a year, she’d like to talk to her classmates about how the schools in Korea are different from schools in the US. She’ll talk about the school year being different, as well as how their school days are different.

Then we’ll give an overview of holidays in Korea, talking about how some are similar (like Memorial Day and Independence Day) and how some are the same (like Christmas, although it isn’t widely celebrated). But we’ll focus on the two main holidays of Chuseok and Seolnal. We’ll explain how these are family holidays and that families travel for several hours to be with their families and honor their ancestors.

We’ll tell them on Seolnal Koreans eat a special rice cake soup, play games, and the children will do a special bow in front of the oldest family member, for which they receive money.

We plan for our student and our son to demonstrate the sebae bow and then have all of the students try it, for which they will receive sebae ton in the form of chocolate coins.

Then we’ll teach the class how to play yut nori. Since you play yut nori in teams so I’ll lead a team and our student will lead a team. Once the game is over, we’ll have the students make their own yut nori set using craft sticks and buttons. We’ll have the rules of yut nori and the game boards printed out already so each student can take their set and play at home.

At the end of the presentation, we’ll have a Korean snack for each student which we’ve decided will be a ChocoPie with a Korean flag tooth pick stuck in it.

I’ve also recommended some books that the kids could read on their own if they want to know more. The titles include: The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park, The Next New Year by Janet Wong, and New Clothes for New Year’s Day by Hyun-Joo Bae.

Honestly there are so many things to include that it was hard to narrow it down. But since the presentation is going to be on Seolnal, I thought it would be best to stick with a general overview and then specifics for the holiday. We’re all looking forward to the presentation, and hopefully the class will enjoy learning a little bit about a different culture.


Happy Pepero Day!

Happy Millennium Pepero Day from our house to yours

Not that I ever need an excuse to eat chocolate, but if you do here’s your excuse for the day. It’s Pepero (빼빼로) Day!

November 11 was chosen (by the company, I think) as the day to share this delicious treat with family and friends. And today being 11/11/11, it’s like the biggest Pepero Day of all Pepero Days and is being called Millennium Pepero Day. 🙂

This Korean holiday is easy to celebrate. Go to the Korean market. Purchase some Pepero. Give packages to your family and friends.

Nothing to it. Rumor has it that Pepero (the company) sells more Pepero sticks on Pepero Day than they do on all of the other days of the year combined. That may be true, but Pepero (especially the almond variety for me) is enjoyed throughout the year at our house.

So eat up and enjoy this very special once every one thousand-year commercial holiday. 🙂

National Foundation Day (개천절)

Oct. 3 is National Foundation Day (romanized as “gaecheonjeol”) in Korea. Legend has it that Gojoseon, the first state of the Korean nation, was formed on the third day of the 10th lunar month in 2333 BC. But today, for convenience sake, the foundation of Korea is celebrated on the third day of the 10th according to the solar calendar.

Gaecheonjeol” means “Heaven-opened Day,” which fits the legend of Dangun coming down from heave to establish the Korean kingdom.

The earliest record of the Dangun legend is found in the Samguk Yusa, or Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, which is a collection of legends, folktales, and historical accounts. It was compiled at the end of the 13th century. I’ll likely post more on the Samguk Yusa at a later day.

As I mentioned last year, you can find this legend numerous places online or possibly in children’s storybook form. Our son loves the story of the tiger and bear and how one became human. It would be great day to read the account of Dangun and if you have the right cookie cutters, make cookies in the shapes of Korea, tigers, and bears.

추석 잘 보내세요! (Happy Chuseok!)

Our Chuseok table

The above really translates “good time for Chuseok,” which is what my wish is for you today. Yes, today is Chuseok, which most people refer to as Korean Thanksgiving.

I detailed our family’s Chuseok celebration last year on this blog so I won’t go into a lot of detail. Sadly this year’s celebration was not as big since we had two kids in school and two parents at work. But we did come home and make a big Korean meal, including mu guk, san jeok, mandu, kimchi, rice, and my special Chuseok crescent moon Rice Krispy treats. (One day I’m going to make songpyeon, the traditional Chuseok food, but not this year.) My Korean cooking has, overall, been given a thumbs up by our exchange student, and she enjoyed our Chuseok meal, including our crescent moon “rice cakes.”

Then we played yut nori in a marathon game in which the girls finally beat the boys. But we’ve already been challenged to a rematch and this time it’s going to be a “super yut” game, according to our son, using both yut sets we have. Should be interesting! Honestly with two very competition kids playing, the husband and I almost didn’t have to do anything. Still we had a good time.

Memorial Day (현충일)

June 6 is Memorial Day, 현충일 (Hyeon-chung-il), in Korea; a day to honor those who have served and, for many, given their lives in defense of Korea. It’s a day to remember not only those of Korean descent who have served, but also those from other countries who have worked to protect Korea. And one of those men was my great-uncle.

Given that Billie died 20 years before I was born, you’d think I’d have no special connection with him. But even before I came to adopt from Korea, I had a fascination with this man I would never know. Growing up I used to spend a few weeks each summer with my grandparents. They lived in a rural area of Oklahoma, and I loved being there to enjoy their garden and just spend time with the greatest grandparents in the world.

In the hall of my grandparents’ home hung a photo of a handsome young man in uniform. The photo and it’s ornate frame were damaged with age, but the photo fascinated me none the less. It greeted me each morning as I went to the kitchen for breakfast. I knew the photo was of my grandfather’s younger brother, and that he was killed in a war. I knew that his mother never believed he died and always thought one day he’d walk through the door. But being young, the details of which war and how he died didn’t really seem important to me.

Then a few years ago I got into genealogy and finally thought to ask my grandparents more about the young soldier. With the information from them, I was able through Internet searches to find out more. Here’s what I learned.

Uncle Billie was part of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division of the Army, one of the first to enter the Korean War. Between mid-August and mid-September 1950, the 7th Cavalry Regiment was defending the Pusan perimeter against the invading North Korean army. Pusan (now romanized as Busan) is located on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula, meaning that in a little more than two months, the North Korean army had taken control of almost the entire Republic of Korea.

On September 10th, the 7th Cavalry Regiment was in the Kumho River Valley northeast of the Taegu Airfield. It was here that Uncle Billie, while driving a Jeep, was shot in the head by a sniper. Billie’s body arrived back in Oklahoma, but the family was told that the physical damage was so severe that the casket shouldn’t be open. Because my great-grandmother couldn’t see him for herself, she never fully accepted his death. Billie had just turn 20 years old less than a month before the Korea War began on June 25, 1950.

In September 2006, 56 years after Billie died, his death became even more real to me. As I walked around Seoul, I realized that without men like my uncle–Korean, American, and other Allies–and the sacrifices they made, I likely would not have been able to walk those streets, to take in the Korean culture. And I wondered what would have happened to my son’s Korean family. As we all know, life under the Kim, Il-Sung/Kim, Jong-Il government has not been easy for the people of North Korea.

Korea’s history hasn’t been an easy one. Decades of Japanese occupation, World War II, and the Korean War have left scars both emotional and physical. And that’s just in the last century. So today there’s a lot to remember.

Now that faded photo of Uncle Billie in its ornate frame belongs to me, given to me a few years ago by my grandmother. I cherish it for all it represents to our family. When look at my Korean-born son today I’ll think about Billie and all of those who fought for Korea throughout its history. And when I encounter Korean War veterans, I’ll remember to thank them; their service and sacrifices mean a lot to our family.