I expected when I first came to Korea that Christmas would be nonexistent here, or at the very least, a much smaller affair. However, Korea embraces Christmas wholeheartedly, see Korean Santa. There are a few twists on the classic Western Christmas though. In Korea, Christmas is more of a couple’s holiday, like Pepero Day, only bigger. People who are single celebrate Solomas, that is “solo” + “Christmas”. My students laughed at the idea of spending Christmas Eve with their parents. Apparently parents go out and kids stay home and do their own thing.
Their Own Thing
Kids stay home alone during Christmas and watch Home Alone. That’s right, the 1990 Macaulay Culkin masterpiece about home invasion, is Korea’s Christmas Story. It even plays around the clock on Korean TV. However, Koreans don’t call it Home Alone. Here it’s called “Kevin”, after the protagonists first name. There’s a joke in Korea that if you are single during Christmas, you’re going “on a date with Kevin”. I don’t know what would be worse, going on a date with Culkin on Christmas or staying home and watching him as a child star.
Christmas in Korea
Many of the great Western Korean traditions survived the voyage over the Korea, but a few were lost to the sea. For example, there are no candy canes in Korea, that I’ve found. I’m sure they’re available at Costco somewhere.
Many places in Korea decorate with lights, wreaths, and Christmas trees. They’re mostly coffee shops, but in my opinion they still count. [divider_flat]
Nicole and I held a holiday party of our own for a few of Nicole’s close friends. It was a cookie potluck, the best kind of potluck in my opinion. We held a Secret Santa as well. I “won” a Wack-A-Mole key chain that’s both as awesome and as annoying as it sounds.
We also celebrated with my friends and coworkers on Christmas day with delicious Turkey stew and another secret santa and a Christmas Story.
Nicole and I couldn’t just celebrate Christmas the way the West does, that would be culturally ignorant of us, and I already feel guilty occasionally eating Taco Bell in Itaewon. We decided to celebrate Couple’s Christmas, the Korean way, with same-same pajamas. I picked out the most Italian tablecloth-like pajamas I could find, which were surprisingly easy to find in downtown Gwangju.
Nicole and I also exchanged presents of our own, aside from the adorable pajamas. I got her some awesome sparkly gold Vans and some really cool bearmuffs as well as several delicious stocking stuffers. Nicole got me some delicious Rogue beers like we had in Seoul, a sweet grey cap, and Flax Snax from iHerb.
While Christmas is different here in Korea, it was an incredibly fun experience. I’m really enjoying my time here and all of the new, often bizarre, experiences I get to have each day.