Coming-of-age day is a big event that not many outside Korea know about.
I’m going to explain how to celebrate it right.
Use these tips to fully enjoy your college life and make that once-in-a-lifetime event more special!
- what coming-of-age day is
- why being 20 years old so important in Korea
- which gift to give
- and more!
Let’s find out more!
What is a Coming-of-Age Day in Korea?
Coming-of-Age Day is 성년의 날 (seong-nyeon-ui nal) in Korean.
It’s a legal anniversary on the third Monday of May every year for new adults who have turned 19 (만나이 or international age) or 20 in Korean age.
Coming-of-Age Day was designed to celebrate/welcome new adults and remind them of their responsibility/duty as adults in the society.
Next coming-of-age day is Monday, May 16, 2022 for people born in 2003.
Why is being 20 years old so important in Korea?
When Koreans become a 만나이 or international age of 18 (which is usually 19 in Korean age), they can
- get a driver’s license
- get a part-time/full-time job without their guardian’s consent
- watch rated-R movies
- join the military
- apply to take an exam to be a 9th grade civil servant
- apply for working holidays.
More importantly, once Koreans become 20 years old (Korean age, which is usually 19 in international age), they can start drinking and smoking cigarette as of January 1st.
So, people born in 2003 can drink alcohol at a pub/bar, starting from January 1st, 2022.
Which gift do Koreans give on a Coming-of-Age Day?
Koreans mostly celebrate their coming-of-age day with their boyfriend/girlfriend or friends.
The three main gifts from boyfriends/girlfriends are:
- 20 roses – wishing for infinite passion and love (20 roses to match the age of 20)
- perfume – wishing to leave a good memory, just like leaving a good scent
- kiss – meaning to love someone responsibly as an adult
For friends, you can exchange roses, liquor or anything they want for a special day.
How did Koreans celebrate Coming-of-Age Day in the past?
It was a bigger deal during the Joseon dynasty a hundred years ago.
Traditionally, males would wear a topknot in their hair until their coming-of-age day, and cut it to signify their passage to manhood. They would have a huge ceremony called Gwallye (관례) where they would learn how to drink properly among other things.
Women would put up their hair in a tight bun and pin it to signify that they had become women. Their ceremony was called Gyere (계례) and was usually a simpler affair.
What are some other activities on the Coming-of-Age Day?
More young people are choosing to spend their coming-of-age days visiting the elderly or volunteering at places like animal shelters.
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