Do Christmas in South Korea. It's a bucket list experience that's fun, familiar and unusual too. Expect festivals and events, look forward to snow and try South Korean skiing. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Korea your essential guide for visiting South Korea.
South Korea celebrates Christmas energetically. Although the country has a chequered history with Christianity. It first arrived here with Catholic missionaries in the 17th century but was outlawed in 1758. And for a long time Christians were persecuted. However, after the end of WWII, Christianity began to grow and today 33% of the country identifies as Christian.
Christmas is a national holiday and you can expect plenty of familiar western traditions, only with South Korea twists. It's not a purely religious celebration, so almost everyone enjoys festivities. And if you like seasonal snow and sparkle, you will love South Korea. To celebrate in Seoul, book Glue Hotel in the city centre.
Don't say Santa in South Korea. Say Santa Haraboji. This South Korean Santa wears mainly green or blue - occasionally red. And he's never without his top hat or 'gat'. But despite the differences, he's still recognisable as Santa.
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Festive feasting is another big tradition in South Korea, although the food probably won't be familiar. Cream sponge cake is served instead of fruit cake. Ice cream cakes are also popular and so is steamed rice with fruit. And kimchi is a staple, as are noodles and beef bulgogi. For festive fare on tap, stay at Lotte Hotel Seoul, it has 10 restaurants.
If you're looking for romance make a trip to South Korea at Christmas. It's a time of year for grand romantic gestures and celebrations tend to be less about family. South Koreans also enjoy a lot of festive house parties and will often spend Christmas day with friends.
It is traditional in South Korea to give gifts at Christmas, but money's also given. And the custom of the country is only to give Christmas gifts to close family and friends. If you're interested in learning more South Korean customs, take a tour of Seoul with a local guide.
If you can't imagine Christmas without skiing, snowy South Korea will suit you perfectly. It's a mountainous country and snow sure in winter, so there's a good variety of high quality and accessible ski resorts to choose from.
Head for Yongpyong or try Konjiam near Seoul. Alpensia was a 2018 Winter Olympics venue, so it comes highly recommended for its ski area, off-slope activities and places to stay. Like the sound of Alpensia? Book a ski break at Holiday Inn Resort Alpensia Pyeongchang.
Ice skating's incredibly popular in South Korea. There are stunning outdoor rinks all over the country and almost everyone skates. But the most famous rink of all is Seoul Plaza. Book Hotel President next to Seoul Plaza and you can skate day and night.
Don't miss Herb Island Light Festival in the City of Pocheon, Northern Korea. It's famous for spectacular light displays. and a charming Santa Village. South Korean festive traditions abound and there's even a Christmas Photo Zone. To boost your seasonal spirit, stay at Hotel Gallery in Pocheon.
For more things to do in South Korea throughout the year, read our guide to the best things to do in South Korea.
Ready to travel to South Korea? Find out about the best time to go and the best places to see and things to do in South Korea. For inspiration use the South Korea itineraries from The Rough Guide to South Korea and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.
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