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Why is Christmas in Korea a day for couples? (Including some 2023 menus and events!)

Goblin Christmas Kiss
"Goblin" Christmas Kiss

My family this year, like every year I've lived in Seoul, asked me "What are you doing for Christmas?" Back home Christmas is a big family affair. Usually, one family hosts, and friends and family come together to celebrate, drink, and eat! The festivities are fun and countless!

In Korea, especially for expats, Christmas can be a very unique experience. It's not typically a family affair here unless you're Christian and go to church. There are many Christmas attractions around Seoul for couples and families however the day itself is mostly a couple-oriented holiday! Let's take a look at what a "couple Christmas" looks like in Korea and why it's that way!

Date Day

Korean Couple on Christmas Day
Korean Couple on Christmas Day

On Christmas Day in Korea, department stores are lit with glistening lights, and most restaurants and bars are dressed in a Christmas theme as well as their menus, and themed events take hold of the city. On Christmas Day, couples fill the streets to celebrate their love with presents for their significant others, and reservations are booked well in advance for restaurants' Christmas menus. Other popular traditions include drinking Vin Chaud, which we have mentioned before, read HERE. Events include Christmas markets and holiday concerts. Check out some of this year's markets:

The Soul of Seoul Blogger goes into detail with a few events for 2023, read more HERE.

Our favorite market (one we've attended) is The European Christmas Market. This market is filled with delicious foods and treats from all over Europe. There's live music, and decor and the atmosphere feels like those outdoor Christmas markets you see in those cutesy, lovable rom-coms and we love it!

This market will be held December 9-10, 2023; 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm.

Address: 성북천분수광장; 서울시 성북구 동소문동 2가

Seongbukcheon Fountain Square, Dongsomun-dong 2-ga, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul

Making Reservations

As mentioned above Christmas-themed menus surface around Korea during this time of the year and most fancy places take reservations months in advance to be able to visit. Check out two example Christmas menu notices for this year:



Why is it a couple holiday and not more family-centric?

Our first thought is that Korea is not a Christian country, even though there are many Christians and churches here Christmas is more of a Western practice. After all, it is a pagan festival, its meaning is different from that of countries/cultures/religions that celebrate it as a spiritual day. It appears as more of an influence in Korea therefore, the day and season are more festive and romantic, rather than symbolic and family-oriented.

With this influence, the festivities have become quite commercialized so events and marketing in and around the season are very similar to those of Valentine's Day or Halloween. The way Christmas is celebrated in Korea has become a cultural practice of its own and is delightful.

Christmas Santas
Christmas Santas

It is a unique way of experiencing Christmas here in Korea. I do miss my family's usual festivities but experiencing Christmas differently has also been fun! It's amazing to see how different parts of the world take on different cultures, it's like seeing Diwali being practiced and enjoyed in Western countries. I wonder when we will see more Chuseok or Seollal practices in Western countries too! I think it won't be too far off. What do you think about Christmas in Korea? Comment below!


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