Christmas and New Year Korean Style

by Korea4Expats, 15/12/2014

Christmas and New Years Day are national holidays in Korea. This means that banks, post offices, government offices, schools, business offices etc. are closed. However, restaurants, most stores (including department stores, supermarkets, bookstores, etc) are open for their regular hours 25 December. However, New Year’s Day, 01 January, is another matter. The majority of stores are closed that day, with places that are open into the evening closing early.

Christmas Day (25 December) is a day for couples and friends to do things together - shopping, going to the movies, etc. while New Year’s Day (1 January) is more a time for families.

Over the past few years, Christmas lights and traditional Western decorations in both public and private spaces have become more popular. At the same time, Korea has developed some of its own, unique, traditions, among them an over-the-top gaudily decorated (that’s the point) Christmas cake. You haven’t had a ‘real’ Korean Christmas if you haven’t had a one of these special confections.

If you’re a traditionalist at heart, not to worry. Korea offers the options of roasted chestnuts from outdoor vendors while many hotels and local restaurants offer turkey dinners and special holiday-theme events. Churches (click on Churches and then scroll down to the see other religious options in Seoul and around Korea) around the country hold Christmas Services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (K4E lists any information we receive on these services in What's Going On).

Many expats and Koreans celebrate New Year’s Eve in hotels, clubs or at private parties with friends, however others have adapted a Lunar New Year tradition to the last and first days of the solar calendar – namely going to see the last sunset of the old year and the first sunrise of the new one. No matter where you are in Korea, there are places you can go to see sun set and rise, be it on your own or as part of special sunset/sunrise festivals

There’s also no shortage of musical events (entertainment and theatre/opera) – both traditional Korean and traditional Western - over the holidays well as many other things to do. If you’re not travelling, this is a great time to enjoy the mix of cultures that make up the Holiday Season in Korea.

Happy Holidays!

Photo of a Korean Christmas Cake from

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