I’m not the first person to have spent Christmas in South Korea, and my good friend Heather from over at The Kimchi Chronicles has been kind enough to share her own thoughts on spending the holiday away from friends and family.
If you’re curious about Korean lifestyle and culture, Heather’s blog is one of the best ones you’ll find. I’m looking forward to catching up with her and her boyfriend Britton in the New Year when I return to my adopted homeland.
Celebrating Christmas in Korea
As many ex-pats in Korea know, the holidays and special occasions are difficult times to be away from family and friends. I know that feeling myself. But I remind myself many times that not everyone gets to spend time in a foreign country, and experience holidays in another country.
The first thing I noticed about Christmas in Korea was how refreshingly non-commercial it was. Anyone from home can attest to the fact that immediately following Halloween, Christmas decorations, cards, candy, toys, and other miscellaneous items make their appearance. Radio stations start the yearly barrage of holiday tunes, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself unconsciously humming along when doing your regular shopping at the store.
But Korea is quiet. After Halloween the Pepero Day displays went up. After that, there was a few weeks of fall sales. At the beginning of December, the fake trees and decorations came out. But instead of taking up a few aisles like they would at Wal-Mart back home, they’re relegated to a small corner of the store. Christmas is just not as big here as it is at home.
That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate it. I just have adapted a few traditions and made some of my own. My big thing is having a tree, because there is nothing prettier than sitting by the tree aglow with lights and with presents laid underneath. And I enjoy getting to open said presents on Christmas morning. Thus, a fake tree was purchased the first year in Korea and has been carefully decorated every December since.
At home I would help my mom with the Christmas baking and cooking; here I do some of my own. Nothing as elaborate as mom would do, but I can make a pretty good peanut butter fudge as well as some tasty muffins!
Another nice thing I like about Korea during the holidays: getting to travel easily on Christmas! The past two years I’ve headed up to Seoul with Britton to enjoy the city. Getting there by bus or train is easy because it’s not crowded on Christmas morning. We can get to the city by early afternoon and have time to enjoy the sights and a delicious meal for dinner later. Sure, it’s not the usual turkey with the trimmings, but familiar Mexican food is a good replacement!
All in all, Korea has a darn good Christmas and holiday season, especially if you’re adventurous enough to make new traditions of your own. And it doesn’t hurt that snow is abundant enough to make it a white Christmas more often than not.