Christmas in Korea

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Christmas is a relatively new and subdued holiday in East Asia, in fact from all the East Asian countries South Korea is the only one that actually believes Christmas to be a National Holiday but there are several Korean Christmas traditions that have grown from Western Christian influences and are now popular during this winter celebration, which they also celebrate on the 25th of December. Given Christmas day only off work and school they return again the next day, they celebrate a longer holiday on New Year (which is the same date as Chinese New Year).

South Koreans beliefs are split with around 50-70% studying Buddhism and the rest Christianity, unsurprisingly the Buddhists do not celebrate Christmas and almost disapprove of it as it is not their holiday.

Most Christians follow many of the Christmas customs including, but not limited to, decorating Christmas trees in the home and also on the pavements outside, sending cards and giving gifts, usually money but sometimes also flowers, bags, shoes, book and jewellery among others . Christmas cards are generally less expensive than cards in the western world and they often have peaceful outdoor scenes

The whole holiday is a lot less flash and extravagant than the Western world, it’s more personal, less commercial. Usually only one gif t is given from one person to another instead of multiple but that one gift is usually a lot more thoughtful and individually suited.Others see it as an event for charity work and sacrifice instead of indulgence.

Everywhere gets covered in lights, especially the churches, the stores put on displays, as does the capital city, Seoul, which is also lit up, with even its bridges being decorated with lights.Children embrace Santa Halabuji, meaning Grandfather Santa in Korean, who, they believe, acts as all Santa’s do, bringing presents etc. There are also multiple Santas that walk around town dressed in blue and red costumes giving out gifts of chocolate to the children.

From a few days before Christmas, restaurants offer special Christmas suited meals at nights, television stations play Christmas films, cartoons and music that are known even in the Western world.

Around this time friends and families gather together to enjoy parties and be merry.
On Christmas day they make cakes, meat loafs, rice, and many other traditional meals, and celebrate with a formal dinner with family and close friends.

They also have Christmas cakes, although they’re very different from western ones, usually a sponge cake topped bought from a bakery which they then cover in cream or even an ice cream cake from the local ice cream store.

Many Christians attend church services and pageants, especially on Christmas Eve and day, after which the children carol for older church member (and are rewarded with drink and snacks in return).