I just moved to Korea at the end of November… There are soooooo many new impressions, so much to organise, university has started and I’m basically 8,000km far away from all my loved ones in one of the biggest metropolises in the world. Alone…
Somehow it’s normal that I don’t really get into the Christmas mood. But I deliberately tried to change that by researching where to get the full Christmas experience in Seoul.
Forcing myself into the Christmas-Mood
At this time of the year in Germany I would normally try to slow down a bit. I would take a few days or even weeks off, go to my hometown and spend a lot of time with my family and friends. Because in Germany, Christmas is the most important holiday of the year….
Unlike in South Korea… Here, Christmas is not quite as important as “Thanksgiving” (korean: Chuseok > 추석) or the New Year, for example. In Seoul, people tend to celebrate Christmas with friends or their partner instead of having a big meal with the family and gathering with them around the whole country. Nevertheless, you can also find a lot of Christmas in Seoul…. IF you look carefully and know where:
1) Seoul Lantern Festival
You can get your first Christmas vibes already at the end of November: At the Seoul Lantern Festival. Every year, an event takes place at Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, where beautiful colourful lanterns decorate the small stream. It only has something to do with Christmas in a distant sense, but a walk by twinkling lights in the dark and cold is somehow quite suitable.
The Seoul Lantern Festival takes place every year from late November to early December. Between 5pm and 9pm, you can check out the glowing lanterns at the beginning of Cheonggyecheon Stream near Seoul City Hall. And it’s completely free!
2) Seoul Plaza (City Hall)
Very close to Cheonggyecheon Stream you will find Seoul City Hall Am Seoul Plaza. Normally, the city sets up a huge ice rink for skating here every year. However, due to the pandemic, this was cancelled for the second time this year.
Nevertheless, one of the largest and most impressively decorated Christmas trees in Seoul can be found in this square. And right in front of it, one of the now world-famous “I SEOUL U” signs.
3) Shinsaegae Department Store
The area around Myeongdong is probably best known for its Christmas atmosphere in Seoul. Every year, the Shinsaegae department store puts on a huge Christmas show on its facade under the slogan “Magical Holidays”. Of course, this is the most Christmasy thing to see here and there is usually a big crowd of people in front of it taking videos and photos, but in my opinion it´s a bit too much cheesiness and advertising.
4) Myeongdong Cathedral
What I would hiiiiiiighly recommend you is the slightly hidden Myeongdong Cathedral with its lighted sea of roses, which is in comparison to the Shinsaegae Department Store not yet known to everyone.
For me personally, this was the absolute highlight of my little Christmas tour through Seoul. It looks simply magical…
5) Christmas at home
During my little tour, I also kept my eyes open for things that could also get me into the Christmas mood at home.
Christmas tree scents, tea, Christmas cards, fairy lights, tangerines and apples…. I was able to find the most important things myself here in Seoul and have a cosy movie night at home with my absolute favourite Christmas movie “Charly & the Chocolate Factory”.
On Christmas itself, I went out for dinner with a friend and then had a video call at home with my family in Germany. In the end, family and friends and being together is what Christmas is all about.