How to celebrate Christmas in Korea

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Albero di natale in Corea

Christmas in Korea (크리스마스, keuriseumaseu, the Hangul transliteration of Christmas) is not as widely celebrated as it is in the West. While it is a public holiday with schools and offices closed, the festivities typically last only one day. Let’s explore the characteristics of Christmas in Korea.

Christmas tree in Korea

Christmas atmosphere in Korea

Christmas in Korea may not be as widely celebrated as in Western countries, but that doesn’t mean it goes unnoticed. After Halloween, shops, and especially coffee shops, immediately replace their decorations with those for Christmas. Sometimes, you might even find places where both sets of decorations are displayed together for a short period. However, don’t expect to see Christmas lights everywhere. Nevertheless, you can usually find Christmas trees in main shopping regions.

The concept of Christmas in Korea is primarily divided into two categories: as a couple’s celebration or as a religious holiday for Christians to be spent with family.

A Second Valentine’s Day?

For most Koreans, similar to Japanese, Christmas is seen as a couple’s holiday, akin to a second Valentine’s Day. If you are in a relationship, you will likely spend Christmas day romantically with your significant other. To reach the height of romance, many Koreans try to coincide the 100th day of their relationship with Christmas. In a relationship, reaching 100 days together is considered a special occasion before the anniversary. This is why September 17 is called Gobaek day (고백데이, Confession Day). On this day, if you confess your feelings to the person you like, and if successful, the 100th day of your relationship will coincide with Christmas.

Religious Celebration

Despite Buddhism being the most prevalent religion in Korea, around 30% of the population is Christian (mostly Protestant). This segment of the population, therefore, celebrate Christmas in Korea as a religious occasion by attending church services and spending the rest of the day with their family. However, being a Christian doesn’t preclude a Korean from celebrating the day with their partner after the church ceremony. The choice of how to spend Christmas varies from person to person.

Christmas in Korea at Starbucks

Christmas activities in Korea

Single and non-Christian Koreans typically spend Christmas with their family or friends. A typical activity for the day will be shopping. Many also go to the cinema to watch a Christmas-themed movie.

As for Christmas gifts, they are not always exchanged. However, if invited to someone’s home, a Christmas cake or other food items or necessities are usually exchanged. Couples, on the other hand, often exchange special gifts.

Christmas food in Korea

As Christmas is not a traditional Korean holiday, there is no specific Korean Christmas food. During Christmas, Koreans consume their everyday food. However, since cake is one of the most common gifts, Christmas-themed cakes are the most popular food during this holiday. These cakes are often ice cream or cream-filled with a small Christmas tree made of sugar paste. Therefore, if we have to name one typical Korean Christmas food, it would be these Christmas-themed cakes.

We hope this article has been helpful, and for more information, follow the Go! Go! Hanguk blog. Don’t hesitate to contact us for living and studying in Korea.

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