Merry Christmas! Christmas in Korea is something that is very dear and true to my heart. It’s something I always remember and think of when I think of Christmas. Many foreign residents mention that Christmas in Korea is a romantic holiday usually spent with your significant other rather than family. As someone who is mixed and half Korean, I’ve always had a different experience when it comes to Korea. I’ve always spent it with my Korean family and even though I have only lived here for about 2 years, I’ve spent Christmas in Korea over 22 times.
If you have been living in Korea for a long time, I’m sure you have come to create your own special Christmas traditions. It’s fairly easy to get some Christmas items here like ornaments, small trees, and more.
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Christmas in Korea – 15 Amazing Light Festivals and more
Like many countries, December 25th or Christmas day is a national holiday while Christmas eve is not. So, Christmas in Korea can be lonely for foreign residents or travelers who are completely new to the country who are missing home. They may be missing family, friends, and the holiday spirit. Here are some ideas of how to spend and celebrate Christmas in Korea to make it feel more like the holidays again.
Things to do for Christmas in Korea
Visit a Department Store
Korean Christmas is a public holiday but it’s considered to be a couples holiday, so many Koreans spend the day together at the mall shopping and spending time with family or their partners. Honestly, Korean’s kind of do this every weekend. They treated this day as any day of the year. Most couples will go to a nice restaurant that may be open. Sometimes at the department store, you might be lucky enough to see Santa Claus.
Go to Church
If you happen to be Christian, a lot of Korean’s celebrate Christmas at church. Many Koreans are of Christian faith and still attend church during the holidays. It was something my family did every year and they still do to this day. Although I don’t really attend so much anymore, it’s always been a tradition to go on Christmas day.
Christmas Food in Korea
As Christmas is becoming more popular in Korea, many Western restaurants have risen to the occasion for providing a great Christmas meal. Christmas in Korea doesn’t always feel the same when you eat Korean food, but I think the holiday is about the spirit of Christmas more than anything. Here are some of the restaurants in Korea that offer a Christmas meal.
- Route 66
- Ilsan Brunch Club
- Salon de Joo
- Linus BBQ
- Mix and Malt
Growing up, Christmas markets were probably not as popular as they are now. Koreans are starting to embrace this Western holiday with decorations, celebrating with family, believing in Santa, and just making it a fun day for the kids. At many of these markets, you can find lots of Christmas decorations from ornaments to small decorated trees. Here are some of the well-known Christmas markets in Korea.
- Namdaemun Market
- Dongdaemun Market
- Gangnam Express Bus Terminal
Best Korean Christmas Decorations and Displays – Where to see Christmas lights for Christmas in Korea
Despite Christmas being a romantic holiday in Korea, Korean’s absolutely love lights, night strolls with their partners, and photo-worthy places to visit. So many of these places are typically open during winter, some more geared towards Christmas in Korea and others just beautifully lit up for a neat experience.
Cheonggyecheon Stream Seoul Lantern Festival
Address: 서울특별시 종로구 창신동
Time and Dates: 17:00 ~ 21:00, November 26 – December 5
Probably one of the most popular places to visit especially in Seoul is Cheonggyecheon Stream. This location is usually a bit more traditional with Korean-style lanterns and is a very popular amount of tourists and locals. They are displayed along the stream and crowded on Christmas day. They usually have traditional lanterns on one side and themed lanterns on the other. It’s quite beautiful and highly recommended to visit if you are staying in Seoul.
Address: 서울 용산구 남산공원길 105
Time and Dates: 10:00 – 23:00, open daily
Since Korea does make it a couples holiday, Namsan Tower is the perfect place to take your date for Christmas in Korea. It’s beautifully lit up at night and there are beautiful metal trees covered in love locks to seal the deal with your crush or loved one. I honestly think Namsan tower looks best at night and it may not be as festive as some of the other locations, it still has a great feel to the holidays.
Garden of the Morning Calm
Address: 경기 가평군 상면 수목원로 432
Time and Dates: Weekdays & Sundays 11:00-21:00, Saturdays & Public holidays 11:00-23:00, starts early December
If you are staying in Seoul and want to make a day trip from Seoul to the Garden of the Morning Calm, this is the most popular place in all of Korea to visit during Christmas. Honestly, it’s popular to visit all year long. Most foreign residents may think that visiting the Garden of the Morning Calm is a must-do for Christmas in Korea. The garden of the morning calm is a botanical garden that is northeast of Seoul. This botanical garden is filled with colorful lights that cover the plants and fields. If you are interested in taking a tour from Seoul, book your day tour here.
Address: 경기 가평군 청평면 호반로 1063
Times and dates: Starts early December
Many people will visit the Garden of the Morning Calm and Petite France around the same time. This becomes another great place to visit during Christmas in Korea at night. They have something called the Little Prince Lighting Festival that starts in December and runs until February. The buildings are decorated in Christmas lights and Christmas trees giving it a classic Christmas feel.
Oozoo – Byeolbit Garden
Address: 경기 이천시 마장면 덕이로154번길 287-76
Time and Dates: 12:00 – 23:00, open daily
I highly recommend visiting this place during Christmas in Korea if you can. This is a difficult location to visit and probably least likely to be visited by tourists or foreign residents. This location would only be accessible by car since it’s actually on the side of a rest stop. It’s quite interesting and very beautiful. I was shocked when I first pulled up thinking that my GPS must have taken me to the wrong location. However, after exiting the vehicle I was able to see the entrance. They have small Christmas light shows that happen every hour until they close.
This garden is filled with lights and there are some interesting places where you can easily set up your phone and take some selfies with your friends, family, or significant other. The garden has barrels set up easily around the area where you can put your phone and place it on a self-timer for those precious recorded moments. This was absolutely a delight to visit and I will be coming back here soon.
Ansan Starlight Village- Byeolbinmaeul Photo Land
Address: 경기 안산시 상록구 수인로 1723
Times and dates: 15:00 – 23:00, open daily
I would say this is quite similar to Oozoo in style and looks. It may be a bit smaller. There are 2 themes to the park one being the animal village and the other being the heart village. This park is available all year long and is known to have lights displaying a variety of animals including owls, cranes, swans, elephants, giraffes, lions, pandas, and more.
Chungju Light World
Address: 충북 충주시 남한강로 24
Times and Dates: Unfortunately this is officially CLOSED
This location looked pretty in the reviews and photos, but I think maybe we went on a bad day. Several of the lights were out when we visited and it was still quite beautiful, but maybe not as ready for winter as we thought. It’s very affordable though to visit. This location I would not say is quite Christmas in feel, but you can still see the beautifully decorated buildings with lights.
There are some famous landmarks they have created here that are filled with lights like the Eiffel tower, London bridge, the U.S. White House, and more.
Herb Island Lighting Festival and Santa’s Village
Address: 경기 포천시 신북면 청신로947번길 35
Times and Dates: 16:00 – 21:00, open daily
I would say like at Garden of the Morning Calm, you can view lots of beautiful plants covered and decorated in bright and colorful lights. They also have some Santa’s set up and they also have a small Christmas market as well.
Busan’s Christmas Tree Festival and Haeundae Light Festival
Address: 부산광역시 해운대구 우동
Times and Dates: Starts as soon as the sun goes down, runs late November through January 2022. 11. 18. – 2023. 1. 24.
If you want a great view of the beach and some Christmas light extravaganza, well Busan might be the place to visit for Christmas in Korea. During winter, they have a beautiful light festival. Starting from the street to the beach, you will see beautiful lights and a lighted Christmas tree at the end. When you walk onto the beach, you will see a pathway and extravagant lights that cover the beach. There are little areas to take some selfies or instaworthy shots.
Busan’s Gamcheon Culture Village
Address: 부산광역시 사하구 감내2로 203
Times and Dates: 17:00 – 21:00, open daily
Gamcheon Culture Village is hosting its lantern festival from December 7th through December 25th 2022 from 17:00-21:00! Busan’s Gamcheon Culture Village is a popular destination for tourists all over the world. It’s been known to be Korea’s version of Machu Picchu in Peru. this area was considered a safe haven for many who were trying to escape during the Korean War.
Illumia Light Festival at Let’s Run Park
Another location in Busan, is the Illumia Light Festival at Let’s Run Park. A show with music, filled with images produced by special lights and lasers can be enjoyed on the artificial lake.
Boseong Tea Plantation Light Festival
Address: 전남 보성군 보성읍 유촌길 151 화장실
Times and Dates: 18:00 – 22:00, unsure if this will happen during 2021
Although the tea plantation isn’t so great to visit during winter, they have made it appealing for those visiting during winter. They set up a beautiful light festival for tourists and locals that light up the entire plantation.
Amusement Parks to visit during Christmas in Korea
If for some reason you just want to make every holiday easy to access or feel festive, these amusement parks dress up for every season. You can guarantee you’ll find these places decorated for Halloween, Christmas, New Years’, and more.
Address: 경기 용인시 처인구 포곡읍 에버랜드로 199
This is probably the most popular amusement park in Korea and a great place to visit during Christmas in Korea. Although, I do find this park may be more suitable for older or taller kids. When I traveled here with my friend Shelley and her daughter Naia, there are more carnival-style rides rather than rollercoasters. She also was not tall enough to ride a lot of the rides, so we just did the ones she loved over and over again. Everland goes out when it comes to performances, decorations, and just an overall feel of the holiday.
Address: 서울 송파구 올림픽로 240
This is a great location for the entire family. There are kids of all ages who visit here and Lotte World is one of my fondest memories as a kid during Christmas in Korea. My cousins and I would often come here to visit and spend the day going on the rides. Lotte World can oftentimes be preferred due to location and accessibility. It’s located in Seoul in the Jamsil area.
E-World Starlight Festival
Address: 대구 달서구 두류공원로 200
If you happen to be closer to Daegu or down south, then E-World will be the best amusement park to visit for your Christmas in Korea. Like Everland and Lotte World, they have a beautifully decorated park covered in Christmas lights. It’s a great location to take photos and enjoy amusement park rides, performances, and Christmas decorations.
Address: 경기 과천시 광명로 181
It’s the perfect place to go sledding if you are living in Seoul. They have a sledding hill and a great light show at night. It’s a small amusement park and Korea’s first theme park.
Snow Activities to visit during Christmas
Alps Village – “Frozen” Paradise
Address: 충남 청양군 정산면 천장호길 223-35
This is probably one of the best places to see some amazing ice sculptures. They also have sledding and toboggan available. It’s a beautifully decorated place that’s perfect for families. You can even ride a tractor-like train that goes really fast and in circles for the kids. They have roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes available, which are a Korean winter classic street food.
Other activities you can look forward to doing are:
- Ice Fishing
- Ice Skating
Christmas in Korea FAQS
Do Koreans celebrate Christmas?
I think this solely depends on the family. Koreans do, however, love Christmas decorations, they love Christmas songs and all of the stories behind them. Many Korean Christians celebrate Christmas at church. Korean parents and couples celebrate Christmas by giving a small gift to their kids but not to friends or the entire family. However, Christmas decorations aren’t splattered all over Korea like in many Western countries.
Christmas in North Korea is not a thing. North Koreans do not celebrate Christmas and are prosecuted for even having any sort of religious belief.
What do they call Santa Claus in Korean?
They call Santa Claus 산타 할아버지 (Santa Grandfather) in Korean.
How do you say Merry Christmas in Korean?
Many Koreans typically will say Merry Christmas almost the same in Korean, they pronounce it ‘Meri keurismaseu’ (메리 크리스마스).
Korean Christmas Cards
If you are wondering where to get Korean Christmas Cards usually some decorations and cards can be found at Daiso or at some of the big book stores in Korea like YP Books and Kyobo Bookstore.
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