Like in many Asian cultures, the family unit is a very important part of Korean culture, so much so that they have a day to celebrate children, and another to celebrate their parents.
Observed every year on May 5th, families typically celebrate by taking their children on excursions – maybe to a zoo or a museum or a fun park – and give them presents. It’s essentially another birthday!
Children’s Day was the brainchild of Korean students and social activists as a way to promote the March 1st Movement – a Korean separatist protest against the occupation of Korea by Japan – by encouraging adults and parents to teach their offspring about Korea’s lack of sovereignty. In 1923, May 1st was designated Children’s Day, but due to a clash with Labour Day, it was later moved to May 5th.
Prominent intellectual Bang Jeong-hwan greatly contributed to the popularization of the holiday, coining the modern Korean word for children, eorini.
Until the outbreak of WWII, Japanese authorities openly tried to suppress the movement and stopped Korean social activists congregating for the festival, but the holiday continued to be observed even after independence was won in 1945. The day was finally made official in 1961 when the children’s welfare law was written into the Korean constitution, officially designating 5th May as Children’s Day.
Celebrated only a few days after Children’s Day on May 8th, Parent’s Day is a public holiday and even has awards handed out by the government.
Parent’s Day is spent making a fuss of the parents. The carnation is the official flower and is traditionally given by the children, and families often congregate over a big meal.
The roots of Parent’s Day trace back to the 1930’s and Christian communities celebrating Mother’s Day. In 1956, Mother’s Day was made an official holiday, but, as always, men felt left out and wanted Father’s Day to become a recognised day. So, in an effort to placate the male populace, May 8th was designated as Parent’s Day in 1973.
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