Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas In Korea

Christmas in Korea seems like another required post for ex-pat bloggers. But the important thing to note that Christmas in Korea is same same, but different. For example,

  • Christmas is consumerized as a Romantic Holiday.
  • The main food item is a Cake, not the Turkey.
  • Christmas carols are replaced with Christmas pop songs.
  • Boxing day (British or American) is a foreign concept.
The Internet (God bless it) provides more information:
In countries where Christianity is the main religion, people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by going to church, recreating Nativity scenes and spending time with their families. In Korea, Christmas is a little bit different. Since a large part of the Korean population has no religious affiliation (46 percent) or follows the Buddhist tradition (26 percent), Christmas in Korea is more secular. Few people regard it as a religious celebration and rather enjoy it as a day to celebrate the end of the year. Although during Christmas season you will find many Christmas trees and images of Santa Claus on the streets, you will not see many Nativity scenes, which are very common in Christian countries.

Unlike Western countries where Christmas is a family holiday, in Korea it is a day to celebrate with your girlfriend or boyfriend, as a couple. Therefore, while people in other countries grow stressed during Christmas season worrying about facing family members, Koreans on the other hand grow stressed looking for a date for Christmas Eve. Those who have a special person with whom to spend Christmas often enjoy romantic dinners and go to places in downtown Seoul like Gwanghwamun and Myeongdong, where they can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Christmas lights and decorations.

Those who fail to get a date for Christmas, however, spend it with their friends. Fortunately, during the last days of December there are many year-end parties, or mangnyeonhoe, where Koreans gather together to celebrate the end of the year. Mangnyeonhoe are usually held between old classmates, coworkers and other social groups. These parties are characterized by lots of eating and drinking, and an overall atmosphere of unrestrained celebration.

Meanwhile, Christmas shopping in Korea is not as frantic as in other Western countries. Although sales do increase at the end of the year, shopping for gifts is not a big problem since it is not customary to exchange presents with family members or friends for Christmas. Usually most Koreans just buy presents for their girlfriends or boyfriends, as it is not tradition to give presents to all your friends and family members.

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