You will find celebrating Christmas while teaching in Korea to be very unique. Although you will hear a lot of Christmas music, see trees and building lit up, and people dressed in Santa suits, it still doesn't always feel like the Christmas season you are used to back home. In this blog I will do my best to give you tips on how to celebrate the holidays at ChungDahm, with your fellow teachers and expats in Korea and even your family back home.
Although Christmas season in Korea is different, there are still so many ways to enjoy the Holiday Season. With the right amount of effort and a good group of fellow teachers and expats, you can create a Christmas that is memorable and unique. It may not be exactly like what you are used to back home, but by playing some Christmas music and decorating little Christmas tree you can get into the festive mood.
How to Celebrate the Holidays in your Classroom?
This year Christmas day falls on a weekend so Christmas will not be spent in the classroom, but the kids still do ask you about presents and Santa. The weeks leading up to Christmas you could create Christmas badges as rewards for hard working students and wear things like a Christmas sweater to school. The underground shopping malls have some great Christmas sweater ‘finds’ and if you wish to go for the ridiculous look, you will be sure to find it there.
You could also decorate your classroom with a little Christmas tree from Daiso (a cheap $10 store) or print some ESL Christmas word searches and crossword puzzles for students to do in the last 5 minutes of class or at break time. Finally, be sure to wish your students a Merry Christmas, and possibly play a Christmas carol or a funny Santa video as a treat.
How to Celebrate Christmas with Friends?
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas with friends while teaching in Korea. In Seoul, many restaurants are offering Christmas day specials including full course meals with gluvine or eggnog! Be sure to book in advance and invite a group of friends to join you. To create Christmas cheer you can recommend that everyone wears something festive and you could possibly go ice-skating at City Hall after your meal. You can also do a ‘Secret Santa’ among yourselves and surprise one another with Christmas presents.
If you prefer to spend Christmas in the comfort of your home, then you could arrange a Christmas lunch or dinner at your apartment. There are plenty of ways to make this work. In the past my friends and I chose a host apartment, and then divided the things to bring and cook beforehand. To make sure the costs were divided evenly we would usually set a price and transfer all the money to one persons' account who had organized our meal.
One year while celebrating with my friends we even dressed up one friend like Santa, and he sat in front of the tree handing out all the Secret Santa gifts while Christmas music played and cookies and hot cocoa was being passed around.
Where to shop for Christmas meals? High Street Market in Itaewon usually delivers a full Christmas meal to your house and Costco is a great place to save on large portions of food and they also tend to have good Turkey prices.
Can I Partake in any Christmas Festivals or Events?
Korea is big on seasonal events and festivals and the Christmas Season is no different. If you would like to see awesome Christmas light displays then you should head out to Gapyeong in Gyeonggi-do for the Lights Festival Garden of Morning Calm or Boseong in Jeollanam-do for the Green Tea Plantation Light Festival.
The Garden of the Morning Calm, in Gapyeong, has been hosting a Christmas light festival annually. Plenty of Seoul residents make the journey to nearby Gapyeong to enjoy the biggest lighting festival in Korea! Displays include Bonsai Garden, Moonlight Garden and he Garden of Eden. The festival is being held from Dec 3,2016 - March, 2017, and entrance is 9,000W for adults from 11am – 11pm on weekends. There is a Gapyeong city tour bus that leaves outside of Lotte World everyday that you can book online or you can catch the ITX to Gapyeong station on the Seoul metro.
The Green Tea Plantation Festival is a little further for some and could make for a great weekend getaway. The Boseong Green Tea Fields in Hoecheon-myeon are famous all year round for boasting the largest green tea farming community in Korea. The festival is unique and bring Christmas decorations to a whole new level. There are spiraling dragons and an enormous Christmas tree, with an entire plantation lit up! The festival is accessible via express bus to Boseong and it is open from Dec, 11, 2016 - January, 31, 2017.
Other festivals to check out is the annual Sinchon Chsitmas Market, the French Christmas Market, The European Christmas Market, Jazz Christmas Concert and CanCham Christmas Dinner. Lotte World and Everland Outdoor Parks have Christmas themed things to do as well!
Gift Ideas To Send Home?
Sending gifts home couldn’t be any simpler and more efficient than with the Korean post office. Postage in Korea is super cheap and you will be surprised at how easy it is to send Christmas presents home.
Choose gifts that your family would not easily be able to get at home, such as traditional Korean snacks or Asian beauty products! The local market and underground shopping malls have some great items that are unique and very Korean.
A popular gift my family has enjoyed receiving over the years has been the traditional Korean cookies called ‘Chapsal Yagwa’. They are made with wheat, honey and sesame oil and are covered in a sweet glaze. They are kind of like an Asian donut. You can find them for a pretty cheap price in the local markets and they are super delicious! Another, one would be ‘Hobak Monaca’. These are baked rice cookies with a sweet pumpkin paste inside of them which kind of tastes like a sweet pumpkin jam.
Another big hit are Korean socks. In Korea you can find all sorts of ridiculous socks with whatever theme you wish to be on them. Every time my sister comes to Korea, she stocks up on Korean socks because, she loves them so much.
How to Celebrate The Holidays With Your Family Back Home?
My family always does a big Skype chat on Christmas day where we open one another’s gifts. We try to make sure everyone has a cup of hot cocoa and are wearing something festive in the call. This makes us feel like we are spending some of the holidays together.
Christmas time is when you will usually feel the most homesick so it is really important to plan something with your family.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!