Yes, it is not just Japan that is celebrating this week. There are three important days in Korea starting today up until the 8th of May, which actually begins next week. Today is the beginning of these holidays, and my daughter has off work today. Today is called “Worker’s Day” in Korea. The next important day in Korea is May 5th, 어린이 날, Children’s Day, on Sunday this year. After that, there is another important day, but no one gets off work for it, 어버이 날, Parent’s Day. I will tell you about these holidays.
Today, Worker’s Day, is an international day. Many countries celebrate it. America celebrates it too, but not today. America celebrates it the first Monday of September and calls it Labor Day. The funny thing is that this day began in America, but it wasn’t a celebration then. The big spark for this was called “The Hay Market Affair” in Chicago on May 4, 1886. The workers were striking for an 8 hour work day. Someone threw a bomb into the crowds, and lots of workers and policemen both were killed. After that, in America and in other countries, there were demonstrations for better laws regulating the workers. Eventually, the International Socialist Congress in Amsterdam began calling for all countries to give the workers May first off in 1904. Many countries around the world listened and gave the workers that day off. Many Communist demonstrations have happened on May 1st. It is the biggest holiday in Communist countries like North Korea and Cuba. When the Soviet Union was still intact, there were huge parades in Red Square every year on May 1st for International Worker’s Day. In 1955, the Catholic church declared May 1st St. Joseph’s Day because he was a worker. St. Joseph became the Patron Saint of Workers.
Besides International Worker’s Day, in Korea this week, Sunday is Children’s Day. Children’s Day doesn’t always come on Sundays. It often falls through the week. It is a national holiday. I learned about it when I was teaching. My university didn’t give the students May 5th off for Children’s day, but I learned I might as well not try to teach May 5th because even though the university meant for us to hold classes that day, the students knew they should have it free and took it anyway. If I tried to hold classes, I would have been there alone. The school really should have written it into the schedule. It was begun by Pang Chang-Hwan, a children’s writer in 1923. He established the day trying to instill a feeling of national pride in the children in Korea. Later, in 1975, the government finally declared it a national holiday. Parents in Korea are extremely busy, and they use this day to spend with their kids by taking them to the zoo, to the park, to the movies, etc. Many places give children free tickets on this day. Parents always give their children a gift on this day. My Korean son in law describes it as being like Christmas for the children of Korea. On this day, everyone in Korea would probably like to be a child because the children are treated very special on this day.
On May 8th, there is another holiday, but it is not an official government holiday where everyone has the day off. May 8th is Parent’s Day in Korea. It was originally just Mother’s Day, but since they didn’t have a Father’s Day, they decided to change it to Parent’s Day to include the fathers too. Initially, I didn’t think much about this holiday in Korea, but every year now, my Korean son in law and my daughter make a big deal out of it. They see it as a time for family gathering of both his parents and me. They take us all out to eat at the same time to a nice restaurant. Initially, it felt strange being honored on a Korean holiday, but since I realized it is like Mother’s Day in America, I understand it a bit better. In America, Mother’s Day is usually on a Sunday around this time of year. Mothers receive a corsage they wear to church, and then she gets taken out to eat. Father’s Day in America is toward the end of June.
This seems to be the season for holidays everywhere. In Japan, it is Golden Week with different holidays all week long. Here in Korea, there are three holidays in this time period. There is also one in England that is more than 2,000 years old called May Day today. If you are interested in what May Day is all about look at my next blog. 🙂