End of year party _
Happy Holidays ! This year is already coming to an end, which means it’s time for fun, family and reflection as we head towards the end of the holiday season. In just a few weeks, billions of people around the world will be celebrating the world’s most popular holiday, Christmas, and Korea is no different!
Christmas in South Korea is very different from Christmas in North America or Europe. There are superficial similarities, with Christmas decorations in shop windows, but if you dig deeper, the differences are very significant.
The biggest similarity is that Christmas in South Korea is a national holiday, there is a day off to spend Christmas with family and friends. How could he not like that?
Unlike many Asian countries, South Korea has a large proportion of Christians, Christmas is increasingly practiced with a large Christian religious community .
However, Christmas is not one of Korea’s major traditional holidays, such as Seollal or Chuseok, and so there are no grand decorations on the streets, Christmas markets , festive celebrations. é s like in France. Although most Koreans enjoy a day off, the party is less than in many Western countries, you won’t see big Christmas trees, or big entertainment like in Europe.
- Christmas traditions in South Korea
Instead of being a family celebration like Seollal or Chuseok, Christmas in Korea is more of a celebration for couples. In this sense, it is similar to Valentine’s Day. The magic of Christmas is present
- Christmas food in Korea
If you ask most people, the best part of Christmas is the food you choose to enjoy on Christmas Day. Traditional Christmas dishes (turkey, stuffing, eggnog, etc.), which are not usually found in Korean cuisine, are hard to find at Christmas. For example, you won’t find eggnog in local markets like you do in some Western countries at this time of year!
christmas in korea
Apart from missing their family, food is probably the main element of Christmas that foreigners living in the country miss. For many people, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without the traditional meal they’ve grown accustomed to. If you’re craving that kind of food, your best bet is to find a bar/restaurant (usually in Itaewon) that offers a special Christmas meal.
You can also check the website of the embassy, chamber of commerce, expat club, etc. from your home country and see if they are hosting any special Christmas events. You’re not alone in your search for a traditional Western Christmas meal, and you might be surprised at what you find!
If you’re looking for food to eat at home, you might be able to get a small turkey from Costco (yes, Costco exists in Korea!). Remember that you may need to book in advance as they are known to get full on holidays. Smaller items are often available in the food sections of department stores like Shinsegae (the more expensive the department store, the more likely it is to carry Christmas foods).
Rather than trying to recreate the Christmas experience of your home country, try to enjoy the differences that come with living in another country. There’s so much to enjoy about Korean winter cuisine that it’s not hard to make!
Korean Christmas food
Although Korea does not have the same Christmas foods as other countries, it does have its special delicacies and foods that most Koreans who celebrate Christmas really enjoy. These include Korean barbecue, Jjolmyeon (쫄면), and other delicious foods popular in winter. During Christmas, it is not uncommon for couples to usually end their meals with a beautifully decorated Christmas cake.
- Christmas decorations in Korea
If you’re used to seeing Christmas lights throughout December, you’re going to have a different experience this year in Korea! Christmas in KoreaEven though garlands, Christmas lights and plastic Christmas trees are available at low prices in Korea (find your local Daiso if you want to buy any of these things), it is not so common that people decorate their own house on Christmas.
In contrast, shops and cafes are often decorated. Shopping districts like Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, and Gangnam are full of Christmas lights and decorations. Malls in these neighborhoods often have large Christmas trees covered in shiny ornaments. Like the rest of the lights in these neighborhoods, the Christmas decorations have an ultra-modern look.Walking Street Night Market Street in Myeongdong Myeongdong in Seoul, South Korea.
There’s nothing quite like shopping in December and being surrounded by holiday decorations that heighten the anticipation for Christmas, so it’s no wonder Korean store owners are seeing the appeal decoration. Also, rather than Christmas carols, the latest Christmas pop songs will resonate through the streets.
- songs and music
If you’re usually a fan of Christmas music, you’re in for a treat. Instead of traditional Christmas music like “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, you’ll hear special Christmas songs that k-pop groups release around this time of year. The motif of these songs focuses more on the love aspect of the holiday and less on Christmas itself, but the songs are still a fun way to get into the holiday spirit (and really, who doesn’t an excuse to listen to k-pop?)
- Things to do in Korea for Christmas in Korea
In Korea, Christmas is not a family holiday. Very few people give gifts to large numbers of people, and even fewer people participate in White Elephant or Secret Santa traditions that involve mass distribution of gifts. Rather than spending Christmas with their family, many young Koreans view Christmas as a romantic holiday. Therefore, couple-oriented activities are in fashion.
christmas in korea
- Ice skating and sledding
There are dozens of outdoor rinks this time of year. They are also very busy, the queues for the ice rink at the town hall can sometimes last several hours. If you don’t fancy queuing in the cold, another popular option is to cuddle up at home by the fire with your significant other – it doesn’t get more romantic than that!
For those with young children, there are also several temporary toboggan runs in the town. If you’re in Korea this winter with your family, don’t forget to take the kids sledding. The tracks are quite large in many places in Korea, which makes sledding fun and a bit intense! Korea is a mountainous country and also has many ski resorts, if you want to go skiing or snowboarding during your stay.
For anyone who wants to ensure a white Christmas, these are the places to visit. Keep in mind that they will no doubt be crowded, so be sure to book in advance. Several stations are close enough to Seoul to make a day trip there. Many resorts also have ski slopes open at night.
- Theme parks
Since Christmas is a public holiday, some places are very crowded on Christmas Day. Places with the Christmas spirit are usually crowded with people trying to recapture that elusive Christmas spirit they’ve grown accustomed to over time. Christmas in Korea Lotteworld amusement park, with its special Christmas-themed events Christmas is one of those places. Myeongdong is also very crowded as it is considered a hangout spot on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Since Christmas is a “Western” holiday, many of Seoul’s more international neighborhoods, such as Itaewon, are also particularly lively at Christmas.
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit and are having a little trouble doing so, consider getting super festive and having a caroling party with your friends on Christmas Eve. Christmas carols are a common sight during the holiday season in Korea, and if you’re away from home and miss the traditions you’re used to, there’s nothing quite like spreading Christmas cheer with caroling. Singers usually go door to door in residential neighborhoods and wave to families to get them into the holiday spirit, and you don’t have to have a great voice!
- Christmas shopping
Although Koreans don’t usually give gifts to friends and family, they do give gifts to their spouse. As in most countries around the world, Christmas is a heavily commercialized holiday, and Christmas sales and Christmas-themed advertisements are plentiful at this time of year. If you don’t have a date for Christmas or want to avoid the cold and the crowds, there are plenty of Christmas shows and movies on TV during Christmas time that you can watch by the fireplace.
Suppose you are shopping for your significant other at Christmas. In that case, you might be surprised how early the holiday specials start showing up – major stores start offering holiday discounts as early as mid-November to encourage early risers to do their shopping. In some department stores, you even enter contests while you shop – every purchase you make can earn you various prizes.
So you can shop for the people you love AND get something for yourself in return. Winner! These deals are also frequently available on websites if shopping online is more your style or if you’re trying to avoid the cold this year.
- Korean Christmas cards
If you want to spread the love to your friends and family this Christmas in Korea, a great way to do that is to send Christmas cards. Christmas cards are easy to find in Korea, and they’re usually cheaper than the ones you’ll find in countries like the United States. Most Korean Christmas cards are nature-focused and feature snow, trees, or other peaceful designs that appeal to a wide audience. Get some Korean Christmas cards this winter and show your loved ones how you feel without breaking the bank. They will be happy to know that you are thinking of them! Who knows, you may also receive some in return.
- Fairs and markets
There are a few Christmas markets in Korea, although they are much smaller than those in Europe. The Shinchon Pedestrian Zone, across from Yonsei University, often hosts a small Christmas fair where you can find mince pies, eggnog or roasted chestnuts to warm you up this winter.
- Sinchon Christmas Street Festival
There are also fairs often held in Seoul’s Seongbuk district (where many foreign embassies are located) in December. The exact dates and locations for these events change from year to year, but there’s usually something special going on, so keep an eye out to make sure you don’t miss a thing. These fairs are traditionally the scene of fantastic food and fun activities, and are a great time for the whole family.
Korean Christmas is different from any other Christmas in the world, so rather than trying to recreate your home country’s Christmas, embrace the differences and enjoy a unique Korean Christmas! Also, keep in mind that while the traditions celebrated at this time of year in Korea may be different from what you are used to, the emotion and reason behind these traditions are familiar to you.
Christmas is synonymous with celebration, warmth and time spent with those who are dear to you. It is also reflection, appreciation and sitting by a crackling fire. You will find these feelings everywhere, including in Korea!
What are you planning to do at Christmas? Please let us know in the comments below. It’s the holiday season and we’re always open to new and exciting ideas!