Learn How Christmas And Easter Are Celebrated In Korea and other interesting facts about these holidays in Korea. Also learn how to say happy Easter and Christmas in Korean.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ every year, on the 25th of December. One of the most awaited time of the year, especially due to its proximity to New Year’s eve and a winter break, this festival is observed all over the world.
Religious and cultural celebrations vary from place to place, but one can always expect vibrant decorations, lights, and Santa Clauses cheerfully bring in the festivities.
South Korea is one of the few East Asian countries that actually have a recognised national holiday on Christmas.
Related: Parents Day In Korea
In North Korea, on the other hand, Christmas is not a holiday, and celebrations are not welcome- they are banned. So people cannot attend events and services on Christmas day.
Easter, on the other hand, is celebrated not so elaborately in South Korea. Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is not even an official holiday.
It is a festival voluntarily celebrated by believers only. In North Korea, of course, Easter celebrations are banned.
How Christmas And Easter Are Celebrated In Korea
South Korea is known for its diverse Asian population, and its tolerance for things that easily fall in the basic human rights spectrum, unlike in North Korea, for example.
Hence, one will notice a higher percent of Christians in North Korea than in many other Asian countries like China and Japan; they make up about 30% of their population.
In tandem with the national holiday in South Korea, government offices and businesses take a day off to spend time with their loved ones.
There is no extensive winter break or something of that sort as visible in western countries. They have a longer break for the New Year’s period. So people celebrate Christmas, and are usually expected to go back to work on the 26th of December.
Going to Church
Christmas is much more popular in South Korea than Easter.
So during this period churches are especially brimming with people and laughter, as religious as well as non-religious folk make it a point to visit the church on the eve or day of Christmas.
The church will also put in additional efforts to organise fun, educational events like sermons, performances by the church choir, and even a Christmas play put up by the neighbourhood itself!
Anywhere in the world, an instant indicator of the Korean Christmas season is lights, especially in and around the vicinity of a church.
Similarly, even in Korea, a bright red neon cross rests on top of the church during the festival, and often throughout the year. Along with this, the church is decorated with lights and festoons by enthused folks.
Wishing Each Other
How do Koreans wish each other on Christmas? They usually say Happy/Merry Christmas in Korean is ‘Meri krismas’ (메리 크리스마스), ‘seongtanjeol jal bonaeyo’ (성탄절 잘 보내요), or ‘Jeulgaeun krismas doeseyo’ (즐거운 크리스마스 되세요).
Christians and believers even say ‘Sungtan chukhahaeyo’ (성탄 축하해요) to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Koreans have their own set of traditions that they follow each Christmas, and most of these are common practices in the West as well.
Koreans are known for their penchant for buying little trinkets, souvenirs and fandom merchandise for themselves and their loved ones.
It is during celebrations like that of Christmas in Korea, that this is especially prevalent as friends, family and loved ones exchange gifts with each other.
Gifts like notebooks, scented candles, scarfs, make-up accessories and gloves make for popular purchases during this period.
Giving money as a present is also welcomed, and is not seen as ‘lazy’ or ‘inappropriate’ like in many western countries.
This is because Koreans take gifted money very seriously and diligently add it to their savings.
Parents of young children who receive money set the amount aside as part of their education funds. In this way, the gifted money goes on to fund significant life events and college.
The appeal of Santa Claus during Christmas never goes out of style, be it in the US, UK, India, or Korea!
One can find Santas on the streets of Korea and on store fronts, giving out gifts and toffees to kids, to add to the spirit of Christmas.
They wear red, and even blue here. He is formally (and informally) known as santa kullosu (산타 클로스) or Santa Grandfather (산타 할아버지).
Apart from this, people often host and attend cosy house parties on Christmas eve and Christmas day.
This is in the spirit of being in the company of near and dear ones, and in celebrating a festival together amidst love and well wishes.
One can spot Christmas trees with gifts under them, Christmas socks stuffed with treats, and other Christmas decorations at such get-togethers.
Light festivals are also held across the country, the ones in Everland and Myeongdong are especially well-known.
These festivals house a host of fun activities and games, and a lot of parents can be seen bringing their kids to such events.
The capital city of Seoul has a beautiful, brilliant display of lights as well. They extend all the way over the city centre, including the bridges on the Han River.
Decorations are an indispensable part of any Christmas celebration.
Department stores put up big displays of decorations themselves, whilst also selling them especially during this season.
A lot of people decorate their homes lavishly and ostentatiously, while a lot others treat it as any other holiday.
Buying lights is considered quite an exciting prospect by itself, for young people.
People throng Namdaemun and Dongdaemun, which are two popular markets that sell Asian and European style Christmas decorations.
One can find stars, lights, trinkets to hang on the Christmas, and so much more here. For those looking for Korean inspirations to decorate their tree, use bokjumeoni (fortune pouch) and beoseon (Korean socks) to stand out but also seamlessly fit in.
When it comes to the Christmas tree itself, however, people tend to buy artificial pine trees and not real ones.
This is because most buildings in Korea do not allow real pine trees to be brought in because of fire hazards and similar safety issues.
Therefore, if you are on the lookout for a ‘real’ pine tree, you might be in for quite the Christmas treasure hunt.
For gifts, Myeongdong Street is unanimously believed to be the best place to shop for presents during the Christmas and end-of-the-year season.
There are indulgent sales everywhere, and even free and giveaway efforts at shops.
It is clear that while Korea loves celebrating Christmas, it is more in a formal manner, by keeping up with western traditions and adding their own little twists to it.
There is no week-long holiday to beckon the festival, and there are no rules as to how one celebrates it.
So while Christians do their best to visit a church, and maybe participate in events organised for the occasion, non-believers have their own way of making the most of the holiday.
One does not need any rhyme or reason to put up lights, or to even celebrate! This is exactly the mantra followed by the young and young couples.
Christmas is a day of going out, spending time with loved ones, grabbing a slice of cake or a cup of chocolate, and coming back home feeling warm and fulfilled.
Couples usually treat the holiday as yet another occasion to celebrate their love by spending time with each other.
Reservations for candlelight dinners are made, and hotels are booked for a cosy night out.
Shopping, invariably is a favourite activity, and so is exchanging gifts. While some might choose to even catch a nice Christmas movie at home, others might visit the theatre to enjoy a Korean drama.
Of course, if you live in North Korea, ruled by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Christmas would be a quiet affair.
While Christianity is an ‘allowed’ practice on paper, one could possibly be detained for even owning or possessing a bible.
It is believed that North Korean Christians meet in secret and Christmas celebrations are held clandestinely.
Easter celebrations, as compared to Christmas ones, are subdued and sombre. Korean Christians and Catholics make it a point to visit the church, pray, and enjoy a feast with their friends and family.
Some take up the responsibility to spread awareness about Jesus Christ, and the cycle of death and resurrection as propounded in the Bible.
Easter, which is known as 부활절 in Korean, and the Easter egg, which is known as 부활절 달걀, is also a day to educate children, especially Christian ones, about their religion and practices.
School teachers often hold Easter egg-hunts as inspired by western traditions, and families might make chocolate eggs as a way to cook together, and bring in the festivities.
That said, there aren’t any lavish decorations or sales during Easter in South Korea, shopping malls, businesses and offices function as they normally do.
Of course, expats can be seen celebrating this festival with much more fervour, especially if they migrated to a western country where Easter celebrations are prevalent, and the festival is a public holiday.
What does South Korea eat on Christmas Day?
Most South Koreans follow a traditional Korean diet that includes lots of meat, seafood, vegetables, and grains. However, there are a few key dishes that are eaten on Christmas in particular.
Also, the traditional Christmas food in South Korea will vary depending on the region and household.
These include yangnyeomtang (a hot and sour soup), and donggukjagi (a traditional Korean Christmas cake), saengchang (a type of beef soup), buchimgae (a type of chicken and vegetable stew), and geotjang (a type of pork stew).
Final Thoughts About Christmas and Easter in South Korea
Christmas and Easter are both major holidays in South Korea. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, and Easter is celebrated on April 1st. Both holidays are celebrated with traditional food, gifts, and festivities.
Christmas in South Korea is typically a time for family gatherings and feasting. A traditional Christmas meal might include roast beef, chicken, or pork, along with Korean-style fried rice and vegetables. Gifts are often exchanged on Christmas Day, and many people attend church services.
Easter in South Korea is also a time for family gatherings and feasting. A traditional Easter meal might include roast lamb, chicken, or pork, along with Korean-style fried rice and vegetables. Gifts are often exchanged on Easter Day, and many people attend church services.
Both Christmas and Easter are holidays that are celebrated with food, gifts, and festivities.