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Christmas Is Here!

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Christmas is the time that many of us look forward to, the time that represents the hope and beauty of what surrounds us. No matter where we are in the world, December is always full of this spirit, whether in the north or the south, in America or Asia, it could be said that it is one of the most celebrated times worldwide.

However, we must not forget that no matter how well-known the holiday is, each country gives it its touch either in representative figures, characters, decorations, colors or even dishes; for example, in Mexico enchiladas and piñatas cannot be missing; in Brazil, we have the sonhos and the party Réveillon; in Chile, it is typical to drink cola de mono and the one who will bring the gifts is the Viejito Pascuero; in Colombia Christmas starts from December 7th with “la Noche de las Velitas;” in Korea, they eat bulgogi (Korean barbecue meat) instead of turkey; anyway, if I described each country I could never finish. Can you imagine the almost endless list taking into account each country of each continent? In fact, in this blog I intend to give you an overview of how they celebrate Christmas in South Korea, that’s right! Even in this country they celebrate it, some details change, but the fact is that they know it.

I am sure about something, wherever we are, there will be something specific that will mark the beginning of this time. Although nowadays we all indeed distinguish Santa Claus or his equivalent, this was not the origin of Christmas; indeed, many criticize that it has become something more commercial and consumerist, moreover, some do not know how it started or why countless countries adopted it.

Let’s start with a little general historical context, Christmas is a Christian celebration; historians came to the consensus that, just as the death of Jesus was commemorated at Easter, they should do it with his birth and agreed that the best was in December; today many details have been added, and these have to do with pagan celebrations that in the end coupled everything a little and resulted in what we know right now.

Before the Second World War, there were not many traditions around the Christmas celebration in Korea, however, today a large percentage of the South Korean population is a believer, approximately 23% practice Buddhism, and 30% are Christians (19.7% Protestant and 14.9% Catholic).

As for the celebration itself, Christmas is not one of the most important traditional holidays, that’s why many Koreans do not feel the rush or worry to quickly return home to be with their families or simply take this day as a holiday to rest at home.

One of the most noticeable differences is that in the West it is usually celebrated with the family, while South Koreans do it with their couple or friends. This is why many foreigners who visit the country on these dates think that it is Valentine’s Day or another event, since they see many couples on the streets and there are many events in shopping centers. Another difference that deserves mention is that the figure of Santa Claus is not dressed in red as we see it in the West, but in blue; additionally, in traditional Korean culture they have their 할아버지 (Haraboji, literally “grandfather”) dressed in green and wearing a traditional Korean hat that can be found in certain places.

What else is special about these days in Korea? It is possible to tour various places with decorations that will only be up for a few weeks; buy exquisite cakes; there are K-pop concerts and Christmas specials that are broadcast nationally; and of course, we can’t forget the exchange of gifts either at midnight or the next day in the morning.

Maybe if you decide to venture to celebrate Christmas in Korea you will feel the changes on a grand scale, but I assure you that it would be an adventure, something like getting to know a new world and realizing that there is always something to learn with patience and love.

Would you like to?

Written by: Sara Varon

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