Christmas in South Korea – How is Christmas Celebrated in South Korea?

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There are more Christians in South Korea (Republic of Korea) than in many other Asian countries such as China and Japan, so Christmas is celebrated more widely.

(Christians represent approximately 25-30% of the population.) However, the other 70% of people in South Korea are Buddhists (around 25%) or do not have a religion. (The Asian country with the most Christians is the Philippines).

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Christmas in South Korea - How is Christmas Celebrated in South Korea?

Unlike Japan, Christmas is an official holiday, so people have a free day at work and school! But they come back on the 26th (boxing day). There is a longer official winter break in the New Year.

The churches are decorated with lights and many have a bright red neon cross on top (all year round!), So it goes very well with the Christmas lights! Most churches will have a service on Christmas day. Going to church for Christmas is increasingly popular, even among non-Christians.

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The department stores put on large decoration screens. There is also an incredible display of lights in the capital city, Seoul. The lights are all over the city center, including bridges over the Han River.

Some people (especially Christians and Westerners living in South Korea) will have decorations at home, including a Christmas tree.

Gifts are exchanged and a popular gift is money! Giving gifts has actually become more popular, but giving money is still very common.

You can also see Santa Claus in all of Korea, but he could be dressed in red or blue! It is also known as 산타 클로스 (santa kullosu) or 산타 할아버지 (Santa grandfather).

A popular Christmas meal is a Christmas cake, but it is often a cream-covered sponge cake brought from a local bakery. Or you could even have an ice cream cake from a store like ‘Baskin Robbins’!

Happy / Merry Christmas in Korean is ‘Meri krismas’ (메리 크리스마스) or ‘seongtanjeol jal bonaeyo’ (성탄절 잘 보내요) or ‘Jeulgaeun krismas doeseyo’ (즐거운 크리스마스 되세요). Christians can say ‘Sungtan chukhahaeyo’ (성탄 축하 해요) to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

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If you live in North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Christmas will be very different. Being a Christian is “officially” allowed, but you can go to prison or even be killed for being a Christian or even for having a Bible. Christians in North Korea have to meet in secret and any Christmas celebration will also take place in secret.

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