christmas tree in suwon

Christmas is umm…different in Korea. At least to an American so used to overabundance – of Christmas tunes blaring in every grocery, department and convenience store, of Christmas lights decorating house after house, of advertisements to “buy now” – the energy is different here. The stores aren’t packed with last-minute shoppers. The only place where I can tell it is a special holiday is at the train station. It is packed with people with suitcases, on route to visit family members for the weekend.

One of the Korean-American teachers told me that Christmas in Korea isn’t a big deal. It’s a holiday that excites children, with hopes of Santa Clause leaving presents for their good behavior during the year, as well as couples who apparently give each other tokens of love through gift-giving. But the holiday isn’t one about presents; the kids only open 1 or 2 gifts and that’s it (this would make every American kid cry). For everyone else, it’s just another day.

An interesting side note – there are 4 different holidays in Korea dedicated to couples, a type of Valentine’s Day that we celebrate in the states (some begrudgingly). There is even a holiday dedicated to single people, where they eat a certain type of meal, and gather together with a slight anticipation of meeting someone date-worthy.

But, the Koreans do try to scatter the Christmas spirit. Some trees are lit; the department stores and restaurants humbly display Christmas decorations, not at all to the excessive degree that is oh-so-American. And the funny thing is that you can hear Christmas songs – all in American. It makes me wonder if Korea even has their own Christmas songs.

Christmas this year was an usually warm 45 degree day, but it was a good one with even a little surprise at night – fresh snowfall.