Q: How is celebrating Christmas in Korea different from America?
#1. One Day Holiday.
Even though the longest break in Korea is the winter break, this break doesn’t include the Christmas holiday. For Christmas, the kids get one day off to celebrate with their family and will go to school the following school day. So as a general rule, Christmas doesn’t really matter to families and kids here. I asked a couple of my 5th grade kids the other day if they were excited for the Christmas break and one girl said she was happy since she didn’t have to go to academy on Christmas. I guess that’s one way of looking at things.
#2. Couple-Oriented / Friend-Oriented Holiday.
You haven’t had time to hang out with that special person or your friends because of your busy life? No worries! That’s what Christmas is for. For the young adults, this is just a day to spend with one’s S/O or friends. No one really celebrates with family. People may go on trips, to cafes, to bars, to church, or shopping, but most don’t stay home with family. Some people may exchange gifts with one another but the gift-giving culture here isn’t as much a huge deal on this day as it is back home. However, this year, because of COVID, I think a lot of my friends stayed at home or just ran errands. I ended spending the holiday with my friends at my place since we were too afraid to really go anywhere. After getting our nails done, I had a friend sleepover and we watched movies, chatted, and pampered ourselves like the queens we are. Surprisingly, we didn’t watch anything Christmas-y….
#3. Everything is open.
You forgot to get that last minute present for your friend? Ran out of wrapping paper? Don’t feel like cooking at home? No worries, just go outside! In Korea, everything is open as normal, making Christmas feel like another day. People go about their daily business as normal with the occasional festive Christmas music blasting from the speakers. This year, things were a little different. Since government banned large social gatherings the streets weren’t as crowded and social places closed earlier, but if this pandemic wasn’t an issue, then things would’ve probably been bustling as normal. The amount of people that were downtown was still a lot more than I expected though.
#4. Christmas Cheer and Spirit
I LOVE belting out Mariah Carey’s classic Christmas song, eating Christmas cookies, and watching sychrocated Christmas lights flicker on and off to the beat of the music. It’s one of the things that made me happiest when I was back home.
However, in Korea, while there are selected places filled with Christmas lights and one can hear Christmas music when they go into certain stores, the overwhelming Christmas spirit that is so prominent in America is not as prominent here. I have to say though, this year, because it has been a hard year on the world, I think there was more effort to make this Christmas a little more cherry than before. So, compared to my first year here, I didn’t feel as lonely and depressed this time of year but I still miss going to the light garden or driving though festive neighborhoods. 😭😭
Even though celebrating Christmas here is different from back home, I’ve come to realize that as long as I’m surrounded with good people, it doesn’t matter where I am, I can always have a good time. 🎄☃️
Christmas day may have passed, but I hope the memories everyone created will help them end this year on a more positive note.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy New Year!
Until next time,
See ya around, friend~~