Christmas in Korea seemingly starts on December 24th and ends promptly at midnight December 26th. It doesn’t start in November, there aren’t Christmas trees strapped to the roofs of every Kia and Hyundai in town close to the holiday; Christmas lights don’t flicker in the windows of every apartment or house; most school children don’t write notes to Santa; and few families get together to celebrate.
And why should any of this happen? Most statistics say that 46% of Koreans are atheist, 22% are Buddhist, 18% are Protestant and 11% are Roman Catholic. Christianity and its traditions are still very new in Korea. Christianity didn’t really resonate with Koreans until after the Korean War when the country was at an all time low and more missionaries came into the country. Nevertheless, Korean Christians still observe this holiday, but it doesn’t dominate the scene. You can get an artificial Christmas tree from a department store, but don’t expect the Kiwanis club to be selling trees from the North in parking lots in your city.
But as Korea gets more Westernized, Christmas is becoming a little bit of a bigger celebration.
For our single co-teachers it was very important to have a date for Christmas day (a national holiday) and to get a gift from their boyfriend or husband. But Christmas still isn’t as huge as it is in the United States. But be sure to check out this article in the Korea Times written by a foreigner that has lived in Korea since 1990. He sees Christmas in Korea a little differently.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for some Christmas activities there are plenty in Korea.
Things to do around Christmas time:
Sungbin Bake Sale in Gwangju-This is a benefit for the Sungbin Orphanage in Gwangju and will take place at the GIC December 12 at 1PM. Bring the kids because Santa is showing up.
Ice skating in Seoul–– A great way to fill the cold wind on your face is at the Seoul Grand Hyatt’s outdoor skating rink, a place that has been featured on many a Korean drama.
Go shopping–some of the larger department stores will have a Christmas tree and lights!
Throw a Christmas party with friends–we did this last year and had a blast. It was an ugly sweater Christmas party and most definitely a good time was had by all.