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Why is the 60th birthday important in Korea?

Why is the 60th birthday important in Korea?


Koreans have a unique way of celebrating their milestones, and one of the most significant events that they commemorate is the 60th birthday. This special occasion is known as “hwan-gap,” which means “completion of five cycles” and marks the end of one’s life cycle. In this article, we will take a closer look at why this birthday is so important in Korea.

History and Background

The tradition of celebrating the 60th birthday in Korea dates back to ancient times. It was believed that reaching this age was a significant achievement, as it was rare for people to live that long in the past. The 60th birthday was also considered a time for reflection and gratitude for a long and prosperous life.

The Celebration

The celebration of hwan-gap is an elaborate affair that involves family, friends, and even the entire community. It usually takes place on the day of the person’s actual birthday or on the closest weekend. The event includes a variety of rituals and ceremonies, such as ancestral rites, tea ceremonies, and gift-giving.

Traditional Gifts

One of the most important aspects of hwan-gap is the exchange of gifts between the celebrant and their loved ones. Traditional gifts include items such as red and blue blankets, gold rings, and silver bowls. These gifts are meant to symbolize good luck, longevity, and prosperity.

Modern Celebrations

While the tradition of hwan-gap remains strong in Korea, modern celebrations have evolved to include more contemporary elements. For example, some families may choose to have a large banquet or throw a party at a fancy restaurant. Others may opt for a more low-key celebration with close family members.


The number 60 holds great significance in Korean culture. It is believed to represent a full life cycle and the completion of one’s journey through life. The celebration of hwan-gap is also seen as a way to honor one’s ancestors and the legacy they have left behind.

Family Unity

The celebration of hwan-gap is also an opportunity for families to come together and strengthen their bonds. Many families use this occasion to reaffirm their commitment to each other and express their love and gratitude towards the celebrant.

Respect for Elders

Korean culture places a strong emphasis on respecting one’s elders, and the celebration of hwan-gap is a reflection of that value. It is a way for younger generations to show their appreciation for the wisdom, guidance, and sacrifices of their elders.

Health and Longevity

Another important aspect of hwan-gap is the focus on health and longevity. It is believed that reaching this age is a sign of good health and longevity, and many Korean seniors attribute their long lives to healthy lifestyles and positive attitudes.

Community Involvement

Hwan-gap celebrations often involve the entire community, as it is seen as an important event that deserves recognition and respect. Local businesses may offer discounts or promotions, and neighbors may come together to help with preparations or contribute to the festivities.


The celebration of hwan-gap is a unique and meaningful tradition in Korean culture. It represents the completion of one’s life cycle, gratitude for a long and prosperous life, respect for elders, family unity, and community involvement. As Korea continues to modernize, this tradition will undoubtedly continue to evolve but will always hold its place in Korean culture.



What is 60th birthday party in Korean?

Hwangap is a Korean custom that marks the 60th birthday of an individual, which is technically the 61st in Korean age. To simplify it, let’s consider it as the international age of 60. The tradition is mostly celebrated with only close family members.

What is the tradition of the 60th birthday?

In the Western culture, 60th birthdays are usually marked with humorous “Over the Hill” parties where age-related jokes abound and gifts often bring back nostalgic memories. Attendees may bring old photographs or keepsakes from the guest of honor’s childhood or earlier years.

What is milestone birthday in Korea?

The first birthday of a child in Korea is considered an important occasion, often marked by the whole family dressing up in traditional Korean clothing, known as hanbok, and taking formal photos at a professional studio. The main event of the celebration is a ceremony called Doljabi, which is similar to fortune-telling.

Why do Koreans have 3 birthdays?

In Korean culture, a baby is considered one year old at birth, including the time spent in the womb. The baby will then turn two on the next New Year’s Day, rather than one year after their birth. Therefore, Korean babies born on December 31st will turn two on January 1st, despite being only one day old in other cultures.

Are birthdays a big deal in South Korea?

Special birthday ages hold a significant cultural value for South Koreans, as age carries great importance in their society. Age dictates the manner in which individuals address one another, how they eat together, and even the nature of their friendships.

Why do we celebrate 60th birthday?

In Hinduism, a human’s life span is considered to be 120 years, and reaching the age of 60 is seen as a notable milestone. This age is significant as it marks halfway through one’s life and is a reminder of the experiences and wisdom that will come in the future.


The preparations for hwan-gap celebrations can begin months in advance. Family members will often come together to plan the event and decide on the guest list, decorations, and menu for the banquet or party. They may also hire a professional photographer or videographer to capture the memories of this special occasion.

Traditional Dress

Many celebrants choose to wear traditional Korean dress, known as hanbok, for their hwan-gap celebration. The hanbok is a colorful and elegant outfit that has been worn in Korea for centuries. It is a symbol of Korean culture and heritage and adds to the festive atmosphere of the celebration.

Music and Dance

Music and dance are an integral part of hwan-gap celebrations. Traditional Korean music, such as pansori or sanjo, may be played, and guests may be invited to participate in folk dances like ganggangsullae or buchaechum. These performances add to the joyous and celebratory mood of the event.

Food and Drink

Food is a central part of any Korean celebration, and hwan-gap is no exception. A traditional banquet may include dishes such as bulgogi (marinated beef), japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), and kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables). Guests may also enjoy traditional drinks such as soju (rice liquor) or makgeolli (rice wine).


Hwan-gap is not only a celebration of the present but also a reflection on the past and consideration for the future. As celebrants reach this milestone age, they are reminded of the legacy they will leave behind for future generations. They may pass down family traditions, stories, and values to their children and grandchildren, ensuring that their legacy will endure.


In conclusion, hwan-gap is a significant and meaningful celebration in Korean culture. It represents the completion of one’s life cycle, gratitude for a long and prosperous life, respect for elders, family unity, community involvement, and a reflection on legacy. As Korea continues to modernize, it is heartening to see that traditions like hwan-gap remain strong and relevant, reminding us all of the importance of family, community, and cultural heritage.

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