I feel like I already talked about Christmas traditions in Korea, but it bears repeating so I'll say it again: It's very different.
As far as I can tell, it's a commercial holiday. (Even more so than at home ;p) Historically, it's not a Christian country, so they have no reason to cherish it the way we do. It's a holiday shipped over from the US, like many things here, with a romanticised spin thrown over it so that it's mostly about spending quality time with your other half. Think of it as December Valentine's Day. Or just...December Sales Day where everyone conveniently has the day off.
It's not a big family event where people from all over the place gather to eat a lot of food. They have Chuseok for that! If anything, couples might exchange gifts whilst on a cute date, or parents might give their child a gift but according to my co-teacher that's where the line is drawn. It's not a gift-heavy occasion and even then it's quite often just money.
Because of this, there's also a distinct lack of Christmas decorations to be found. Sure, a lot of the shops we go to and big stations we visit have a tree set up somewhere, and a lot of cafes have snowflake decals and wreaths up on the windows and walls. But I'm yet to see big strings of lights everywhere in shopping areas, and extravagant window-dressing like at home. I'm not sure if I'm sad or happy about this.
When Nick was talking to his students about Christmas and Christmas Songs, they touched on the topic of Christmas carols. As far as they were concerned, any old Christmas song from the 80's and 90s is a Christmas carol. Ah, yes, All I Want For Christmas Is You, that age-old traditional Christmas carol by Anon. Actually, I don't think I heard a single actual carol. Maybe Silent Night, but with a modern cover and with a very different vibe to the quiet, solemn piece you usually hear in the streets.
Then there's the fact we barely had a break for Christmas. December 25th, that's it. No more, no less. We were in school right up until Christmas Eve, and back in the classroom bright and early on Boxing Day. So it kind of didn't sink in that Christmas had come until I was lying in bed on the 25th wondering why I wasn't in school on a Thursday. Usually there's a lot of build-up. The traditional adverts start to pop up, decorations stretch as far as the eye can see, and you can usually see trees dressed and lovely in living room windows. Music pumps out of stores everywhere and people start to ask you about your plans for the holiday. Christmas food is all over the place, people are frantically buying gifts and wrapping paper, and everyone busts our their favourite hideous sweater. Even most work places tend to have decorations and I remember well all of the Christmas-themed activities we'd do in school every year for the last few weeks of term.
But there was none of that, and it was a little bit confusing and jarring, even for me, the self-proclaimed Scrooge.