Christmas is almost here. In South Korea, where Christmas is a public holiday, the spirit of the season is being felt too.
According to an October 2009 report by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, half of South Korea’s 48 million people practice a religion. Of those, 49 percent identify themselves as Christians and 47 percent as Buddhists.
Because Western culture is relatively new to South Korea, there are some differences in how the holiday is celebrated. Churches do hold Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, but Christmas is less family-oriented than, say New Year’s Eve. In popular culture, it has become more like a couples’ holiday, as it has in Japan.
As for food? Some organizations and high-end hotels host Western-style Christmas dinners, turkey and all. Those that wish to have a formal dinner will have traditional Korean dishes such as sweet potato noodles, rice cake soup, barbecued beef, and kimchi, the national dish. Kimchi consists of pickled vegetables seasoned with garlic, ginger and red pepper.
People do exchange gifts and some put up Christmas trees and decorate with Christmas lights. Christmas cakes, famous for their fancy design and not necessarily for what is in them, are also popular.
In South Korea, the Christmas holiday has been given a special twist. See the Youtube video of a medley of Christmas songs in Korean and English!
Korean Tourism Organization
Christmas Celebrations in KoreaBy Seoul Magazine
Love to Know
Korean Christmas TraditionsVarious online contributors