Who do Koreans Celebrate Christmas with?



We are about to begin one of the happiest seasons of the year, celebrated almost worldwide, Christmas also known as Sung Tan Jul, is solely recognized as a national holiday in South Korea in comparison with the rest of Asian countries. It is not as traditional and popular as Seollal or Chuseok, but Koreans will take the day off to unwind with their loved ones, even though not many Koreans are motivated to return home for it.

Photo by Nurulloh A.A on Unsplash

The majority of Koreans see Christmas as a day to celebrate with friends and family rather than as a religious festival, as it is celebrated in Western countries, in which a midnight mass is offered as part of this holiday tradition.

In the West, Christmas in a religious celebration and an opportunity to spend quality time you’re your loved ones, family, and friends, but Christmas in Korea only over 30% of South Koreans are considered to identify as Christians; the rest of the country is said to be agnostic for which Christmas is a holiday that emphasizes romance. Therefore, rather than family activities, Korean Christmas customs focus on activities for couples to enjoy together, you can actually call it a "couple holiday".

For single people, Christmas may be a lonely and hard time, since it is not a holiday to spend with family but more like a valentine’s day, many people decide to celebrate this holiday with relatives or go out with friends to prevent feeling lonely.

A survey conducted by Opensurvey.co.kr in 2017 showed the results of how couples preferred to spend their Christmas, and the results showed that the most voted option by people asked was to have “a cozy date with an intimate atmosphere” with 35.5% voted by women, and 37.8% voted by men, followed by “Regular date”. Below you can see the complete survey and data.


Christmas Food

There is no traditional Christmas food in South Korea, but instead, you can find families enjoying Bulgogi, sweet potato noodles, and kimchi rather than a conventional Christmas roast from the West. Another common Christmas treat that is frequently enjoyed by couples is Christmas cake, which is commonly topped with delectable strawberries and freshly whipped cream, but more varieties can be found.

Photo by la-fontaine on Pixabay

Christmas Presents

South Korea will make the most of the festivities in its commercial areas! Shops and sidewalks are completely decked out in glittering lights and holiday decorations, Seoul is magically illuminated at Christmas with magnificent lights. Decorations like this will spark your Christmas spirit. Although it is not a traditional custom in Korea to exchange gifts, you would still have plenty of Christmas displays, festivals, marketplaces, and shopping options.

Around this time of year, K-pop groups release unique Christmas songs, which you will enjoy. These songs' themes will emphasize the romantic side of the holiday rather than Christmas itself, so if you are already a K-pop fan, you will definitely enjoy hearing your favorite idol or band sing these songs.

Chuseok, sometimes known as "Korean Thanksgiving," and Lunar New Year are already two significant family-oriented festivals celebrated in Korea at the same time of year, due to this, unlike in Western countries like the United States and Canada, gift-giving is not a significant component. Instead, Koreans typically give gifts to their significant other, which explains why condoms, attractive underwear, and love hotel reservations are the most popular Christmas presents. So, couples may offer this kind of present or heartfelt gifts to one another, but family members are considerably more likely to receive an envelope of cash.


Some locations will feel a little bit packed on Christmas day since people tend to gather in places where the “Christmas spirit” is present. One such location is the Lotte World Amusement Park, which hosts unique Christmas-themed events. Myeongdong is also highly crowded since many go there on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for dates and since Christmas is not a Korean holiday, several of Seoul's more diverse neighborhoods, like Itaewon, are also particularly active around this time.

Regardless of whom we spend X-mas with, Christmas cake is a must-have. it's ranging between ₩30,000~50,000 ($25~40), and most bakeries receive Christmas pre-orders from early December. Some convenience stores offer mini cakes for singletons from ₩6,000 ($5~).


Hotels like Lotte or Choseon offer special Christmas cakes, from ₩250,000 ($200~) and it's kinda popular we do "Hocance" (Hotel Vacance), which is when we go and spend time at a hotel, eat Christmas cake, and spend Christmas there.


We would love to hear from you on how you celebrate Christmas and with whom you spend it with!

Author: Aldo