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Mud Festival Anyone? A tour of Korean Celebrations

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

Book Review: Korean Celebrations

Festivals, Holidays and Traditions

By Tina Cho

Illustrator Farida Zaman

Tuttle Publishing: Tuttle Publishing specializes in topics of interest from the Far East: Japan, Korea and China.

Korean Celebrations is a comprehensive list book of fun and fascinating festivals, holidays, and traditions of Korea. Starting with New Year’s Day and ending with Winter Solstice on Dec 21, the book describes the feasts, games, entertainment, and food that commemorate special days.

In addition to national holidays, the book also details festivals that are local to a region or town. The reading even includes a mini language lesson of simple Korean phrases, as well as, some unique crafts.

One can glean from this book that Koreans enjoy gathering to celebrate. As expected, Korea shares holidays similar to those celebrated in the United States, such as New Year’s and Independence Day. It appears though, that for every one holiday in The United States, there are two or more similar events in Korea. For example, did you know there is more than one New Year’s Day in Korea? Of course there is January 1; there is another New Year’s Day though that tracks with the Lunar Calendar. Couples getting married have a western wedding where the bride wears a white gown and the groom a suit or tux. The couple also celebrates a second ceremony while donning traditional Korean attire. Valentine’s Day is the same date as ours (February 14); similar to the day of love, there is also White Day (March 14) and Black Day (April 14). On Feb 14, women give chocolates to men. On White Day, men give women candy and chocolate. On Black Day, young singles eat black-bean noodles together to show they are mourning for love. And there is more! The ancient Festival of Love is commemorated on the 7th day of the7th Lunar Month.

This small country overflows with celebrations and festivals. From Korean Alphabet Day to the Ginseng to the Mud to the Ice Festivals, Korean Celebrations Festivals, Holidays and Traditions contains eye-catching illustrations for the young reader.

A personal note:

As an immigrant to the US from South Korea at a young age, my parents knew nothing of American customs and culture; therefore, I grew up somewhat clueless about American holidays and traditions. I listened with intense interest when my classmates at school talked about the tooth fairy leaving coins in exchange for their tooth and how Santa comes down the chimney on Christmas. Having never celebrated or experienced these and similar traditions, my ‘experiences’ were merely that of a spectator.

My parents worked around the clock to make ends meet in a foreign country, so neither did they have the time to celebrate or impart to me and my siblings things of Korean culture. As a result, traditions and holiday celebrations were unfamiliar flavors.

When I became a parent, I tried to replicate the traditions I had heard about: I put coins under my childrens’ pillows for lost teeth, made Halloween costumes, and trekked the neighborhood doing trick-or-treat rounds, etc. Although I exerted great energy in celebrating these American customs, personal memories of these traditions would have meant more when celebrating these milestones with my kids.

I was clearly the traditions ‘imposter’, but over time, and with many go-rounds of holidays, I evolved from an American holidays notice to a pro. Through my children, I experienced holidays fresh and new, as I might have as a child.

Soon after, I became a pupil of Korean celebrations. Reading Korean Celebrations book was another step toward becoming well versed in the celebrations of both parts of my culture, which is why I enjoyed reading and reviewing this book. Thank you Tuttle Publishing for sending me this book to read.

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