Christmas in South Korea

There are more Christians in South Korea (the Republic of Korea) than in many other Asian countries such as China and Japan, so Christmas is celebrated more widely. Christians make up about 25-30% of the population; with about 15% of people being Buddhist and 56% of people not having a faith or religion. (The Philippines is the Asian country with the most Christians).

Unlike Japan, Christmas is an official public holiday in South Korea - so people have the day off work and school! But they go back on the 26th. There's a longer official winter break in the New Year.

Churches are decorated with lights and many have a bright red neon cross on top (all the year!) so that goes very well with the Christmas lights! Most churches will have a service on Christmas day. Going to Church for Christmas is becoming more popular, even among non Christians.

Christmas ornaments in Seoul, South Korea
Christmas ornaments in Seoul, South Korea, via Wikimedia Commons

Department stores put on big displays of decorations. There's also an amazing display of lights in the capital city, Seoul. The lights are all over the city center including the bridges over the Han River.

Some people (especially Christians and westerners who live in South Korea) will have decorations at home including a Christmas tree.

Presents are exchanged and a popular present is money! Giving actual gifts has become more popular, but giving money is still very common.

Santa Claus can also be seen around Korea but he might be wearing red or blue! He's also known as 산타 클로스 (santa kullosu) or 산타 할아버지 (Santa Grandfather).

A popular Christmas food is a Christmas Cake, but it's often a sponge cake covered in cream brought from a local bakery! Or you might even have an ice cream cake from a shop 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 축하해요) to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.

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 having a Bible. Christians in North Korea have to meet in secret and any celebrations of Christmas will also be held in secret.