Christmas trees are decorated, carols are widely heard in the streets but what does one expect for Christmas in another country'

Even though most Koreans celebrate Christmas and nearly half of the population is known to be Christian, Christmas in Korea does not follow the same customs as in Europe or North and South America.

Christianity was first introduced nearly 200 years ago in Korea, and Protestants actively spread the gospel since the early 1900s. During the fast economic development and industrialization, modern Korea accepted more western culture and integrated into the traditional Confucianist and Buddhist heritage that shaped the lives of Koreans for centuries. Thus, it is more of a neutral religious holiday, celebrated with friends and couples.

Young children still believe in Santa Clause, and Christians attend the midnight service at a church to celebrate Jesus Christ's birth.

"I remember waiting for Santa to bring the presents on Christmas Eve when I was in kindergarten," said Pvt. Ahn, Ki Soo, Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "Stockings would be hung right above my head and I found difficult to fall asleep because I was too excited to check what I had the next morning."

However, most adults would take it as another national holiday to enjoy a day off from work.
Just like everywhere else in the world, Christmas is commercialized to some extent. It is common to exchange Christmas cards and gifts in Korea. This is not done religiously, nor do people feel obligated to do so with close friends and families like in the western world. People fully appreciate the idea of presents, but hassling to find what others want and the idea of receiving gifts is a burden. It may be due to the subdued culture of extreme politeness discourages the excessive amount of exchanging gifts.

Another difference is the fact that it is not as home-oriented. Very few families 'sit around the tree' in the morning or have big Christmas meals with an abundance of food. There are plenty of holidays to be with families and relatives such as Chusuk (Korean Thanksgiving) and Sulnal (Korean New Year's day). Instead, many people opt for spending the day out shopping, or going to the movies or amusement parks with family, friends or their significant other. Hence the city centers and roads are expected to be extremely busy.

An undeniable fact about Christmas is that it is indeed a festive time for everyone to get excited and enjoy the warm-hearted season. The magic of turning fairytale into reality and celebrating Jesus Christ's birth is good enough reason for people to get happy.

The universal Christmas spirit is still alive, however celebrated differently, here in Korea.

Page last updated Tue January 1st, 2008 at 21:33