Why is May a Special Month for Koreans?

by Isabel Bang

It’s a month to celebrate the importance of FAMILY! 

Already into the fifth month of 2021? At this rate, we’ll be celebrating Christmas in a blink of an eye 👀 In Korea, you see a lot of smiles, hugs, and empty streets as it hits May. This month is known as the “Family Month” in the country, so everyone spends a lot of the month at home with more family time than usual 🏠 The reason behind this tradition is the many familial public holidays all found in May. 


May 5th | Children’s Day

Starting 1923, May 5th was announced as Children’s Day, a day dedicated to the happiness of all children in the country. Teacher and an activist for young children, Bang Jung-Hwan was the first to use the word “어린이” (eo-rin-ee) meaning “child,” which literally translates as “a young person.” Before the birth of this word, children were referred to as “아이” (ah-ee) meaning “kid” or “아기” (ah-gi) meaning “baby.” Bang thought the country was lacking in protection laws regarding minors, and that their human rights weren’t as respected as those of adults. Giving the minors a title of “a young person,” Bang insisted that we treat children as independent human-being rather than one’s belonging. 


Children’s Day was declared as a public holiday in the 1970s, and in Korea they carry out a number of national events, spending the day filled with the laughter of children. I remember my parents getting Children’s Day presents for my sister and me when we were young, and we used to take much advantage of the day to do everything we want to do 😂 Which of course never went as planned.

May 8th | Parents’ Day

” (hyo) is an essential aspect of Korean and Confucian culture, which means “filial duty.” It’s a virtue of showing respect to one’s parents and ancestors. Hence why May 8th is one of the biggest public holidays in the country! Rather than having separate Mothers’ Day and Father’s Day like New Zealand, Korea has Parents’ Day, where it’s a day for both parents 👪 The origin of this day was rooted from Mothering Sunday celebrated in Christian states such as the British and the American. Following the religious beliefs, churches in Korea celebrated Mothering Sunday and declared the second weekend of May as Parents’ Weekend in 1932 - which then developed to become Parents’ Day on the 8th of May.


On Parents’ Day, it’s a tradition to gift your parents red carnations as a sign of gratitude and respect. In Korean preschools and primary schools, kids make an origami version of red carnations and the teachers stick little pins on them. As a kid, I took them home, being careful not to play with the spiky ouchy needle as my teacher told me, and pin in on my parents’ jacket 😊 Mum and Dad would thank me, give me a hug, and spend the rest of the day wearing the red carnation on their chest 🌹 Now? I’ll need to spend my cha-chings to get them proper presents 😂💸 but a good bunch of red carnation to go with the presents won’t ever hurt 💝

May 21st | Day of Husband and Wife

This day for married couples was made more recently, in 1995. Although it’s not a public holiday it was declared as a legal anniversary in 2007, with the intention of appreciating the importance of marital relationships and the importance of building a harmonious family. It was decided to be on May 21st because May is the month of families, and the 21st with the meaning of “2” people becoming “1” 😍 Since this is fairly new public anniversary compared to the other two, there's not much tradition to it just yet 🤔 Married couples however, celebrate this day in their own way by going on fancy dinners, exchanging gifts, and sharing the love ❤️

CGV Art House

Whether or not May is a month of the year dedicated to families, Koreans put family first at all times. The collectivistic values rooted deep into the culture believes the family’s happiness and welfare come before one’s own. But hey, when it comes to love for our fam, New Zealand does not come second place! Go on and send a text message to your parents, siblings, cousins, and grandparents to tell them how much you love & care about them 😘

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