Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why is Christmas a romantic holiday in Korea?

Check out the podcast if you have a few minutes.

My ideas...

  • Separation of Christianity, Santa and family traditions from the now Koreanized holiday
  • Commercialization and Pop Culture
  • Lack of romantic opportunity, expression and the prevalence of romantic holidays in Korea

Anyone else want to add anything?

18 comments:

Brian said...

This bastardization is the one that gets me the most. As if Korea needs another lovey-dovey holiday. Why do it to one of our most important holidays? How would they like it if Americans celebrated Chuseok by skiing downhill over burial mounds? "Oh, it's just for fun. You must understand our unique culture."

I think Christmas, like all the other just-for-fun holidays in Korea, is simply the traditional Korean holidays are so busy and difficult. Seollal and Chuseok means half a day waiting in traffic, the women slaving in the kitchen, meeting with relatives, drinking too much, and thinking about dead people.

Anonymous said...

Brian,
"Why do it to one of our most important holidays?" you said?
Wow...That ego of yours! So, is Christmas for "you, English-speaking people" only? Did you mean Jesus' birth should be celebrated by only you guys and should the whole aspects of Christianity be confined and cherished only in the West? Wow.....

Anonymous said...

New Years is a family holiday in Korea while it is a date holiday in the United States. Christmas is a family holiday in the United States and Christmas is a date holiday. If a holiday is not meant for family like New Years or Chuseok in Korea, then why not spend it with someone you love?

The Expat said...

Anon:

I assume you didn't listen to the podcast.

Solar New Years is not a family holiday in Korea. It's a party holiday just like everywhere else.

Brian didn't say it was for English-speaking people. Korea adapted every single aspect of American Christmas except that they turned it into a romantic holiday. So yes, they did "do it to one of our most important holidays."

Anonymous said...

"Near Years in Korea" means the Lunar New Year.

The Expat said...

Then this comment makes no sense:

"New Years is a family holiday in Korea while it is a date holiday in the United States."

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, we are not on the same page here. But since you are agreeing with Brian that Christmas is "OUR" holiday (I am underlining "our"), could you explain what you mean by that? You have clearly implicated that Christmas originally belonged to this group (aka "our" group as far as you two are concerned), only to have Koreans "bastardized" it, coining Brian's eloquent term. So, who is this "we" you are referring to?

The Expat said...

We are on the same page. You just made a claim that didn't make sense, so I mentioned it.

Denying that Korea adopted anything but an American-style celebration for Christmas is pretty much impossible. Whether it's the music played; the movies shown or the decorations put out, it's American all the way. All they did was tweek it to make it 100% romantic.

Same thing with Halloween. Is Halloween "OUR" holiday or an American Holiday? No, but when Koreans celebrate it, it's identical to how Americans do it.

Christmas is not for English-speaking countries, or the west. That is a claim that you made, not us. That is not the "our" which Brian and I referred to. Korea essentially copied every aspect of "our American" Christmas, but altered it a little and turned a great, family holiday into another cheap, romantic excuse to encourage people not to be single.

Brian said...

I stopped allowing anonymous comments nearly a year-and-a-half ago, and it's great. At least have the decency to sign your name to what you write.

Christmas isn't an American holiday, and you can easily cite the ways in which the holiday has changed in even the last generation. The way I celebrate it is different than the way my father (who grew up in an Austrian household) or my mother (whose family is from Poland) or my family friends (from Austria and Germany) celebrate it. And I'll bet I'll keep the holiday with my future children---who will be biracial and bicultural---will be a little different than what I did when I spent the day at my granparents' houses. I'll bet there are people from the "old country"(ies) looking down their noses at what Americans have done to the now nearly entirely secular holiday.

None of that changes that Korea imported the American holiday, imported all the trappings, but made it devoid of any meaning whatsoever save another opportunity to go to Paris Baguette and buy something.

Gomushin Girl said...

Ok, is all secularization of Xmas bad, or only when Koreans (and Japanese, from where we get the repulsive idiom comparing women to baked goods)? Because lots of Jewish and Buddhist and atheists back in North America do in fact celebrate Christmas in a remarkably similar way - as a secular holiday for putting up fun decorations and partying. It doesn't have that special meaning for even all North American Christians, plenty of whom use the day to go to the movies, eat out, and generally do pretty much the same things Koreans are doing here. And since the holiday was essentially imported in its current form in the postwar period from North America . . .well, what are you so up in arms about it keeping the visual trappings? In the meantime, plenty of religious Koreans are spending the day in church or with their families.
I understand being annoyed with the endless parade of couple holidays, but this isn't exactly a major offense. Meanwhile, the point I think anonymous was trying to make is that while North Americans party hardy on the last day of the solar year (which has not, even in Seoul, become a festive day), Koreans mostly spend their lunar new year in a sombre set of rituals with and to remember family, a reversal of holiday meanings.
Don't be such a bah humbug!

The Expat said...

"Don't be such a bah humbug!"

I would prefer being called Scrooge.:)

kissmykimchi said...

Hmm, lack of romantic holidays? It seems like the culture tries to make everything romantic. Everytime I look at a commerical or billboard some couple is holding hands, gazing lovingly into each others' eyes or wistuflly wavin goodly or hugging or, you get the picture.

delicateflower said...

This is a little off-topic, but I once asked my mom how they celebrated Christmas when she was young (Korea in the 1940's). She said they would go to church and sing Christmas-themed hymns. One of the songs that she remembered was actually to the tune of Dixie, but with Korean Christmas lyrics. I laughed so hard I almost died.

The Expat said...

That's classic. May I ask where on the peninsula your mother lived in the 40's?

SeungJu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SeungJu said...

I know it's a bit late to comment on this post, but i think the origin of romantic christmas in Korea comes from the time when Park Jung-Hee govenment imposed a curfew on every nights except for the christmas eve night.

On the night of Christmas Eve, there was no curfew. For the majority of Korean couples in 70s, the christmas eve night was the only night that they could date overnight. So many couples gathered in MyeongDong where the most symbolic catholic cathedral in Korea, Myeongdong Cathedral, is located.

I'm not sure about the details but I'm pretty sure this is what happened 30 years ago

SeungJu said...

here's an interesting article (in Korean) about the curfew. http://blog.naver.com/mobile1975?Redirect=Log&logNo=60015460380

Dreaded209 said...

Christmas is only important as it used to be Yule until the crusades changed its meaning along with the river of blood wrapping its tentacle around the world... i see korea making it more romantic as poetic justice. besides, in the Us, Uk etc how many commercials have you seen romanticising xmas? get over it, would you complain about those too?

Hardly comparible to Brian's "skiing over burial mounds" I mean, those are REAL people there..sheesh