Jubby Kumar, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
“Ho Ho Ho
Shake up the happiness
Wake up the happiness
It’s Christmas time”
Christianity in South Korea was relatively small for a long time with only 2% of the populations identifying themselves as Christians. Catholicism was first introduced in South Korea during the late Joseon Dynasty. However, a big change was introduced after World War II, when the missionaries arrived in South Korea and the people identifying as Christians rose to 25%. In recent times, nearly 30% of the Korean population is Christian wherein, most of them are Catholic. Christmas celebrations in South Korea are slightly different from the western countries but at the same time, there are some similar traditions. So let’s first start with the differences.
Christmas is considered a national holiday in South Korea, and people have a day off but it’s not as big as Chuseok or Seollal. Koreans spend Christmas more like Valentine’s Day i.e with their significant other, rather than having a family get together which is a norm in the western countries. Adults like to go on dates on the day of Christmas, watch their favourite Christmas movies or shows at home. People also exchange gifts and cards. So, Christmas in South Korea is more relationship-focused rather than family-focused.
Since a majority of the Korean population is Buddhist, the traditions like decorating houses, Christmas tree, or having a special meal during Christmas is less common. However, because of the growing influence of the western culture in South Korea, Christmas is now becoming more prevalent and most of the Christians now especially get Christmas trees and decorate their houses.
During these days Churches, stores, bridges, and the whole capital city of Seoul are decorated with lights, and the radios and the music shows play Christmas songs. The streets of Seoul look even livelier with all the decorations and the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Some common traditions which are followed in South Korea are:
Christmas Carolling: People of all ages participate in this event. It’s my personal favourite. People sing house to house carols on cold nights and it doesn’t even require you to be good at singing.
Christmas Mass: Christmas service on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning. People attend the mass in large numbers.
Taking Pictures With Santa Claus: Children are excited to meet Santa, and they want to embrace him and take pictures with him, as they fondly call him Santa Halabeoji or 산타 할아버지 which means Santa Grandfather.
Where to go during Christmas in South Korea?
Myeongdong Cathedral: Myeongdong is known as the birthplace of Roman Catholicism in South Korea and is also a famous landmark. It is the first brick church build in Korea in Gothic style. If you are at Myeongdong you can attend the Sunday Mass in English. Though you have to reach there before 9:00 AM. During Christmas, the Cathedral and the gardens outside are decorated with lights, you can take pictures there; you can also hear the choir practicing a few tunes such as
“그리스도께서 태어나셨다오늘 우리 구원자, 주”
“Today Lord Christ, Our Savior, was born”
Lotte World’s Winter Miracle: The place remains lit during the Light Festival until 31st December where people can enjoy many performances and rides. In the indoor special zone, there is a Snow Castle, Santa, and The Miracle Tree.
Busan Christmas Tree Festival: A lot of family-friendly activities take place there including performances, photo, and video contests, and Tree of Wishes; a Christmas concert where visitors can also participate and enjoy the Carols singing contest.
Everland’s Winter Wishes and X-Mas Fantasy: Everland is one of the famous and biggest amusement parks in South Korea. During Christmas people can watch the Lights of Magic Garden and Fireworks and immerse themselves in the festive mood. This year’s highlight is X–Mas Fantasy.
Watch this video to learn some interesting aspects of celebrating Christmas in South Korea, and tell us in the comments how did you celebrate Christmas?