Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away.
This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.
If Germans hear Last Christmas by WHAM! in September they know the awful commercial Christmas time is on the way and try to avoid it until Christmas Eve. If Koreans hear the song in September it is the start signal for the most irritating sport ever: grab yourself a lover for Christmas Day.
Christmas – in Korean 성탄절 /seongtanjeol/ or in Konglish 크리스마스 /keuriseumaseu/ – is not a religious holiday in Korea. Korea is a multi-religious country with Christians and Buddhist making up hardly 50% of the population, indigenous cosmologies like Shamanism, Taoism, Confucianism being small in numbers and most Koreans not considering themselves as part of any cosmology. So there is no real necessity to celebrate Christmas the “traditional way” as most Germans like to do so. Christmas to us seems like a sacred time we have to spend with our family and even for anti-Christmasers it is a time to rest as we get three days off and schools are closed for two weeks. We put a lot of effort into the right gift and wrap them nicely to put them under the Christmas tree, take long strolls through the wintry scenery and sit at the fireside singing songs and eating festive food.
In Korea there is no time for that. Of course everything has to go 빨리 빨리 (/ppalli ppalli/) and so Koreans only care for Christmas Day (25th of December) and there is no need to spend time with one’s family; on the contrary, it is time for friends and lovers. Being with your friends on Christmas Day means of course you haven’t been successful in the “grab yourself a lover”-game. So, deng! Looser! OUT! Christmas is the second Valentine’s Day. Young Koreans go crazy on getting themselves a girl or boyfriend JUST for Christmas. Being alone on Christmas? Unthinkable! Getting rid of your lover the next day? Manageable!
Also gifting is quite easy, buy an expensive piece of jewelry for your Christmas-girlfriend and you are good to go. Want to looks smart? Dress in your best couple outfit to signalise your successful Christmas date. Of course you have booked into a love motel weeks before just in case and only dating-rookies try to get a last-minute dinner reservation. So if you look for your typical Christmas spirit in Korea, you’ll have to make it yourself. Of course one can find Christmas decoration and festive goodies in shopping areas and one can listen to the newest K-pop Christmas songs, but there is no overall excessive Christmas mood as you are maybe used to it.
Although romance and spreading love seems to be the major issue, it is only for one day. While some Westerners might question Koreans handling Christmas we should think about if our attitude really differs that much.
On that note: Merry Christmas to you out there!
Looking for an unusual Christmas playlist, check out these Kpop songs: