Christmas in Korea
Linnea Vasstrand Nordaas
Celebrated or not, Christmas is marked in different ways all over the world. Koreans also have their own way of marking the special time of the year.
Although many religious Koreans are Buddist, around 21 percent of religious population is Christian (Korea Herald, 2015), making Christmas a public holiday in Korea. Originally, Christmas in Korea has focused more on religious traditions, such as going to church, rather than Christmas decorations and presents.
Korean Christians usually go to church and focus on religious tradition. However, a large part of the population are non‐religious, but they still have Christmas day off from work and school. Therefore, they mark the day in their own ways.
As the country is gradually getting more influenced by western countries, it is now common for stores and cafes to decorate for Christmas. There are more and more Christmas offers and events going on. It is, however, not that common to decorate your own home for Christmas. In western countries, most stores are closed during Christmas, in Korea, however, it is a time where shopping is even seen as a popular activity and most stores are open just like any other day. Many non‐religious Koreans view Christmas as a commercialized holiday or even a holiday for couples, much like Valentine’s Day.
It is common for Koreans to give each other gifts, but not as many as you may be used to in western countries, and not to as many people. Koreans tend to give one gift to a close friend or a relative.
Unlike most western countries, where Christmas is a time for family, Christmas in Korea is a time to be spent with friends or lovers. A lot of people will spend the day doing couple activities, such as going ice skating or going out for a nice dinner. Many younger people go out to party and celebrate Christmas with friends, and then they spend new years with their family, which is opposite of what most people are used to in the west.
The Korean way of celebrating Christmas definitely differs from what people are used to in the west. Nonetheless. The Christmas spirit is to be found in Korea.