As Christmas is fast approaching, EM finds out about different holiday traditions from around the world. Today, we put the spotlight on South Korea, to learn more about the customs in Asia.

Jiyoung Shin, a Korean student in Rotterdam, will spend her Christmas in London instead of exchanging gifts or cards with her parents. But exchanging her family for Boxing Day shopping makes Jiyoung nostalgic of the festive customs that Koreans have. “Christians, 30% of the population, go to the Church on Christmas Eve, after which young people visit the houses of older people and sing Christmas carols to them. The elderly also give youth food and drinks, which is shared in the church the following morning.

Christmas cakes

While Christmas is more popular with the young, and Christmas trees, stockings, and ornaments have become the norm, the obsession about cakes is quite unique to South Korea. “There are a lot of pretty Christmas cakes available in bakeries, most of which include a little present together with the cake to win out their competition. A recent article even mentioned that 10% of the annual profit of the Korean baking industry is made between 21st and 25th of December”.

More important than Christmas

While Christmas is quite important, New Year is far more celebrated. Since it is the first day of the lunar calendar, the Koreans have three days of holidays and visiting friends and family is crucial during this time. And even when heavy traffic and lack of public transportation tickets become an issue, Santa Claus (who wears blue in Korea for a change) never gets tired of milk and cookies, no matter in which corner of the Earth he happens to be! MD