How Koreans Celebrate Hwangap (환갑): the 60th Birthday to Remember

Want to do something special for your parent’s 60th birthday?

Make the most out of that once-in-a-lifetime event with some tips from a hwangap veteran!

I’ll cover:

  • definition of hwangap
  • reason for hwangap party
  • gift ideas
  • what to wear
  • and more!

Hwangap janchi is a fun part of celebrating Korean heritage.

I’ve been through two of them. Here’s how they went!

Korean Celebrations How Koreans Celebrate Hwangap (환갑)

What is hwangap (환갑) in Korea?

Hwangap (환갑) is a Korean tradition celebrating the 60th birthday of someone.

It’s technically the 61st birthday in Korean age. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s keep it “만나이 (mahn nayi)” or international age of 60.

Most Koreans celebrate hwangap with only direct family members. For example, children throw a 60th birthday party for their parents.

Since family members need to gather, most hwangap janchi happen on the weekend before the actual birthday.

Why do Koreans celebrate hwangap?

Lingua Asia_Why do Koreans celebrate  hwangap

Before the mid-1960s, the average life expectancy of Koreans was less than 60. Since it wasn’t easy to make it to your 60th birthday, people used to host big parties to celebrate.

Since the end of the 1980s when the “aging society” (고령화사회) began and the average life expectancy exceeded 70 years, hwangap became very common and its importance has dropped significantly.
(It’s quite contrary to doljanchi, which has become more important now, due to the low birth rate in South Korea.)

How do you celebrate hwangap?

How do you celebrate hwangap
A birthday table I recently set up for my mom’s hwangap! She made out like a bandit with a purse, laptop, flower bouquet, red ginseng, etc.

Think of hwangap as a regular birthday that’s more special and fancier than usual!

Most Koreans celebrate hwangap by having a nice dinner out. The menu can vary from hanwoo (한우 or Korean beef) or luxurious seafood to hotel course meals.

After dinner, people usually visit their parent’s house to have tea/coffee and fruit/cake!

Koreans give gifts either at the restaurant or home.

However, feel free to do it your own special way!

  • Duration: 2-4 hours
  • Number of guests: 4-10
  • Location: nice restaurant or hotel restaurant, then home

Which gift to buy for your parents’ hwangap?

Lingua Asia_Which gift to buy for your parents' hwangap (2)

It’s really up to you!

I bought an Oris watch for my dad’s hwangap and a Burberry purse for my mom’s.

Other popular hwangap gifts are: a massage chair, red ginseng, money cake, etc.

25 One-of-a-kind Korean Gifts You Can Buy Right Now

Which gift should you buy for your future/present Korean in-law’s hwangap?

Lingua Asia_Which gift to buy for your futurepresent Korean in-law's hwangap

Korean in-laws will REALLY appreciate it if you simply show up to their hwangap party!

If you don’t want to go empty-handed and score some points, you can bring any of the following:

Insider Tips: What to Say in Korean

You can say “생신 축하드려요! (saeng-shin chook-ha-deu-ryeo-yo!)” instead of “생일 축하해요 (saeng-il chook-ha-hae-yo)”. This is a more polite way of saying “happy birthday”, reserved for elders. They’ll really love it!

What to wear to a hwangap party?

Since it’s a family party, you can wear casual attire.

Just make sure to match your look to the TPO(Time, Place and Occasion).

Stylish Korean Outfits Perfect for Hwangap

For Korean in-law’s hwangap janchi, it’s wiser to wear something more formal like a button-up shirt.


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Did we miss anything?

Let us know your thoughts or questions about hwangap janchi in the comments!

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