Custom of celebrating lunar New Year’s Day revived

January 23, 2023

The Korean people have traditionally celebrated lunar New Year’s Day. 

Since the period of the feudal Joson dynasty (1392-1910), the holiday had had been one of the three major holidays in a year, and the custom of celebrating it developed into a tradition and a variety of events took place that day.

During the dynasty, the custom of celebrating New Year’s Day appeared as it was decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1894 and the calendar began to be used on January 1 1896.

However, private citizens mainly celebrated lunar New Year’s Day instead of New Year’ Day. 

The traditional custom, however, declined due to the moves to obliterate the Korean nation and oppression by the Japanese imperialists who militarily occupied Korea from 1905 to 1945.

Therefore, the traditional custom might have disappeared from the Koreans’ life, but for Chairman Kim Jong Il.

He, who had paid deep attention to preserving the Juche character and national identity in the revolution and construction, carefully considered the situation and took a national measure to celebrate the folk holiday according to the traditional custom of the nation. 

Saying it had been a tradition for the Koreans to celebrate New Year’s Day by the lunar calendar since olden times, he made sure that the day was fixed as a national folk holiday and marked from 1989. 

One day in February 1997, he said that the Korean people had spent lunar New Year’s Day enjoyably and that when the holiday came after diligently working a full year, they prepared different special foods and played folk games including yut (four-stick) game, sledging, kite-flying and shuttlecock kicking, and pointed to the need to preserve well the cultural traditions and customs of life peculiar to the Korean nation.

Afterwards, he took every opportunity to ensure that people maintained folk customs, including the dietary custom on lunar New Year’s Day, with a correct understanding of them.

The Korean people still keep alive the traditional life customs of the nation as they make and eat different national foods and play folk games on lunar New Year’s Day.


Kim Ji Won, associate professor, PhD and department chief of the Folklore Institute under the Academy of Social Sciences

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