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Why do Korean have two birthdays?


Korean culture is rich and diverse, and it is no surprise that there are many unique customs and traditions that are practiced in the country. One such tradition is the celebration of two birthdays. While most people celebrate their birthday only once a year, Koreans celebrate two different dates as their birthday. This may seem odd to outsiders, but it is an important part of Korean culture that has deep roots in history and tradition. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Koreans have two birthdays.

The Lunar Calendar

One of the main reasons why Koreans have two birthdays is because they follow the lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. This calendar is still used in many parts of Asia and is different from the Gregorian calendar used in Western countries. The lunar calendar has 12 months, each with 29 or 30 days, and a thirteenth month that is added every few years to keep the calendar in sync with the seasons.

The Solar Calendar

Alongside the lunar calendar, Koreans also use the solar calendar, which is used in most of the world. The solar calendar is based on the Earth’s rotation around the sun and has 365 days in a year, with a leap year every four years to account for an extra day. Because of these two different calendars, Koreans end up with two different birth dates.

First Birthday Celebration

In Korea, the first birthday is a significant milestone and is celebrated in a big way. Known as Doljanchi, this celebration involves dressing up the child in traditional Korean clothing and setting up a table with various symbolic items. The child then picks an item from the table, which is believed to predict their future.

Second Birthday Celebration

The second birthday celebration is not as big as the first one but is still an important event. This celebration marks the child’s first birthday on the lunar calendar and is known as Eumnyeok Seongtan. It is usually celebrated with a small gathering of family and close friends.

Age Calculation

In Korea, age is calculated differently from most Western countries. A person is considered one year old at birth, and their age increases by one on the Lunar New Year, which usually falls in late January or early February. This means that a person born in December will be considered two years old in January.

Respect for Elders

Respect for elders is a fundamental part of Korean culture, and this is reflected in the way birthdays are celebrated. On their birthday, Koreans traditionally eat a bowl of seaweed soup, which is believed to bring good health and longevity. They also perform a bowing ceremony to show respect to their parents and ancestors.

Family Connections

Korean culture places a strong emphasis on family connections, and this is also evident in the way birthdays are celebrated. Families will often gather together to celebrate birthdays, and it is common to invite extended family members and close friends to join in the celebrations.


Despite the importance of family connections, Koreans also value individuality and uniqueness. This is why each person has two different birthdays – one reflecting their connection to their family and ancestors, and another reflecting their individuality as a person.

Cultural Differences

Korean culture is unique, and it is important to understand the differences when interacting with Koreans. Knowing about the tradition of celebrating two birthdays can help outsiders understand and appreciate Korean culture better.


In conclusion, Koreans have two birthdays because of their use of both the lunar and solar calendars. The celebration of two different birthdays reflects the importance of family connections and individuality in Korean culture. By understanding this tradition, we can gain a deeper appreciation of the rich and diverse culture of Korea.

Why is 61st birthday important in Korea?

Even though it is the 60th birthday according to the Western calendar, in Korean age it is actually the 61st. This is because in Korean culture, reaching the age of 60 signifies the completion of one life cycle and the beginning of a new one based on the 60-year cycle of the lunar calendar.

What if you are born december 31 in Korea?

In South Korea, parents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the longstanding practice of referring to a baby’s age as one at birth and adding another year on each New Year’s Day. Even if a baby is born in December, they will be considered “two years old” on January 1 according to this tradition.

What is the legal drinking age in Korea?

Individuals in Korea are legally allowed to consume alcohol at the age of 19. While drinking in public is permitted, behaving disruptively while under the influence can lead to significant fines and being taken into custody by law enforcement.

How much age gap is normal in Korea?

In Korean culture, a 12-year age gap is considered significant because it denotes that the couple is separated by an entire zodiac cycle.

Why is turning 60 a big deal in Korea?

The 60th birthday, also known as Hwangap in Korean culture, is a significant milestone as it symbolizes the return to the year of birth after completing five cycles of the twelve-year lunar calendar.

Why is age gap important in Korea?

In South Korean society, age is highly valued and respected, and this is reflected in the use of honorifics and Confucian principles of showing respect towards elders. As a result, younger individuals are expected to adhere to certain customs and behaviors when interacting with their elders.

It is important to note that the celebration of two birthdays is not unique to Korea. In some other cultures, such as China and Vietnam, people also celebrate their birthday on both the lunar and solar calendars. However, the way in which the birthdays are celebrated may differ.

In recent years, there has been a shift among younger generations in Korea towards celebrating only one birthday, usually the one based on the solar calendar. This is partly due to the influence of Western culture and the desire to simplify things.

Despite this shift, the tradition of celebrating two birthdays remains an important part of Korean culture, particularly among older generations. It is a way to connect with their heritage and honor their ancestors, while also celebrating their own individuality.

Overall, the tradition of celebrating two birthdays in Korea is a fascinating aspect of their culture that reflects their connection to both the lunar and solar calendars, their emphasis on family and individuality, and their respect for tradition and heritage.

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