Korea has designated December 25 as a public holiday since 1949 under the name “Christian Birthday.” Korea’s Christmas has similarities to Christmas in other Asian countries, but also has some unique characteristics. Let’s take a look at Korea’s Christmas culture.
1. A Day for Lovers (With Festive Christmas Decorations)
Korean Christmas is most commonly known as a day for lovers. Many couples celebrate Christmas by going on dates or exchanging gifts. In Seoul, Myeongdong, City Hall, Cheonggyecheon, and Gangnam, Christmas decorations are installed to create a festive atmosphere, and various events are held for couples.
Popular Christmas decoration spots in Seoul:
- Seoul City Hall Christmas Tree (with City Hall Ice Rink)
- Shinsegae Department Store Myeongdong
- Yeongdeungpo Times Square
- Coex Starfield Library (with Coex Ice Rink)
2. Christmas Cake
Since Christmas is not a traditional holiday in Korea, there is no special food that is eaten only on Christmas. However, as mentioned in the first topic, since Christmas is a day for lovers, it has become a trend for many couples to order special Christmas cakes to commemorate their special Christmas together. In the past, Korean bakery franchises such as Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours celebrated Christmas with their cakes, but nowadays, cakes from luxury hotels such as the Shilla Seoul, Westin Chosun Seoul, Signiel Jamsil, and Dragon City Hotel in Yongsan are so popular that reservations are impossible.
3. A Public Holiday
About 20% of the population of South Korea is Protestant, 11% is Catholic, and about 31% of the total population is Christian, making Christianity the largest religion in South Korea (it is said that the number of churches in South Korea is more than the number of McDonald’s chains in the world). As Christianity is the largest religion, Christmas is a public holiday in South Korea, and since 2023, it has been designated as a substitute holiday with Buddha’s Birthday. South Korea, the Philippines, China (Hong Kong, Macau), Singapore, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Armenia are among the countries in Asia that seriously celebrate Christmas, while Japan enjoys the Christmas atmosphere, but it is not a public holiday.
4. Religious / Commercial Christmas Vibe
During the Christmas season in Korea, various Christmas discounts are held and Christmas season products are released. Also, various Christmas-related advertisements and images appear in the media to announce the arrival of Christmas.
In addition to the commercial Christmas atmosphere, various religious events are also held. In churches, Holy Communion services are held, and in cathedrals, Christmas Mass is held. Carol concerts and concerts held at churches or cathedrals also make Christmas enjoyable.
Korea’s Christmas is a very lively national holiday both commercially and religiously. It is also a day for lovers who are celebrated more than Valentine’s Day in Korea, and it is also a day for religious people to spend a happy time with their families at church or cathedral.
Korean Christmas is a day that blends religious and commercial elements. It is a day for lovers to celebrate their love, and it is also a day for Christians to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.