Halloween in Korea
We were fortunate this year when a friend’s church organized a trick or treating event for the kids. The pastor’s wife asked a few co-workers if they would be willing to participate. We were so excited because this was our first year going trick or treating in Korea. Kid’s don’t typically dress up for Halloween, and if they do, they typically wear something cliché like a wizard costume. There isn’t a lot of variety when it comes to costumes here. In the larger Korean cities, there are Halloween events, but they usually cater to adults.
On Halloween, we often dress up and wear our own custom made costumes at school. When we go home, we buy our favorite candy, make a Halloween craft/snack, and watch scary movies. It’s not the same as it is back home, but we always have a great time!
Thanksgiving in Korea
The morning after Thanksgiving, when it’s still Thanksgiving in the States, my Facebook timeline is always bombarded with pictures of family members feasting on a bunch of delicious food. I always sit at work salivating and thinking, “Man, that looks good! I’m really missing out!” These are times that homesickness is abundant.
Before coming to Korea, I never really had to cook for Thanksgiving. During our first year in 2009, we decided that since we couldn’t go home, we would embark on our own Thanksgiving traditions. It started out as a small gathering with a few friends, and it has grown to be a major event that all our friends look forward to every year. People who know me, know I can make miracles happen in the kitchen, so they make sure they clear their schedules to attend Thanksgiving at the Robinsons!
In Korea, Koreans don’t eat turkey, so you will not be able to find it in the stores. The only time you can find a whole turkey is around Thanksgiving. Costco sells frozen Australian turkeys, and it'll cost you around $60 for a 10-15 pound turkey. That is a lot of money for a puny bird! It is way more expensive than it is in the U.S. There are other places in Seoul that sell pre-made Turkeys, but those can cost around $100! I’ll save $40 and cook it myself! It's crazy the amount of money you'll pay to have the luxuries of home. If you’re looking for a turkey around Thanksgiving, I’d advise going to Costco towards the end of October because that’s when it’s usually in stock, but get it early because if you wait until the week before Thanksgiving, it will be sold out!
In Korea, homes are not equipped with an oven, so if you want an oven, you have to buy one. I have a microwave that operates as an oven, but it’s quite small compared to ovens back home, so to save time and space I decided this year that I would use a crock pot to cook the turkey. It was a smart decision because it came out nice and juicy!
Ingredients for certain Thanksgiving favorites are hard to find since some things are not sold in Korea. You either have to be creative or do without. For example, this year I could not find collard or turnip greens so I used kale as an alternative. Other times I have to make a lot of things from scratch or I have to have my mom ship some ingredients beforehand. You can find some items at the international stores, but even then it can be expensive. To make my famous Mac n Cheese, I have to buy my cheese at Costco because the regular stores only sell mozzarella. Cheese is quite expensive here, about $10-12 for one block.
Thanksgiving this year was awesome! We had a lot of new friends who joined us and made the event quite memorable. Although we miss our families, we’ve met so many incredible people who have become like family that when we get together during the holidays, it still feels like home.
Christmas in Korea
Christmas is celebrated here in Korea, but it definitely does not have the same feel. You will see Christmas trees and decorations throughout the holidays, but many Koreans see Christmas as a couple’s holiday and a time for love! Just as you are advised to avoid restaurants on Valentine’s Day, the same goes for Christmas here in Korea. We made that mistake our first year, and we ended up waiting hours to get seated at TGI Fridays! I had never seen so many couples in all my life! Some of them were wearing his and hers matching attire; something very common here.
It is easy to find Christmas trees and festive decorations at the local retail stores or through online shopping. Daiso is also a great store to gather up cheap Christmas decorations. All the years we’ve been here, we’ve always put up a Christmas tree and decorated our home with Christmas decorations. During the whole month of December we watch Christmas movies as a family and listen to Christmas music, and on Christmas Eve we make cookies for Santa.
Since the school semester ends at the end of December, it’s very difficult to get time off to go home and visit during the holidays. We usually go home to visit in January when winter vacation starts for most teachers.
Christmas is another major time when most people get homesick here in Korea, but the great thing about having your family here in Korea during the holidays is that you have EACH OTHER to share it with.