I just spent my first Jewish Christmas in Korea and I have to report that they don’t really celebrate Jewish Christmas in Korea.  Now this may seem obvious as there aren’t that many (any besides me??) Jews in Korea.  But it doesn’t really take many Jews to have a Jewish Christmas.  Just alot of Christians.  And Korea has plenty of Christians.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Jewish Christmas is the most modern and surreal of Jewish Holidays.  It commerates the fact that you have off from work, yet all your non-Jewish friends are busy with family and all the restraunts and stores are closed.  Thus you have nothing to do.  Its a holiday defined by oddly empty streets and rows and rows of closed stores.

Like all Jewish holidays, Jewish Christmas begins at sundown, in this case on Christmas eve.  It is traditionally observed by gathering your Jewish friends together and going to a Chinese restraunt (traditionally the only restraunts open).  After diner, you go to the movies (again, about the only other thing open).

However, despite the fact that about half the population of Korea is Christian, Christmas seems to be just another day.  The streets of the shopping district were packed on Christmas eve.  All the stores were open, yet people didn’t seem to be doing last minute shopping.  We ate at a Korean restraunt for diner without having to even worry about it being closed.  In fact, as far as I can tell, every where had normal business hours throughout Jewish Christmas.  Even the 3 hour train ride on Jewish Christmas day to visit my parents-in-law was packed.  None of the Christians in Korea appartently thought to get to their families before Christmas started so that they could leave us Jews to have cheap, half-empty transportation on Jewish Christmas.

So for the first time that I can remember in my life, I missed out on the chance to experience the bordemn and surreal feeling of everything being closed that only comes once a year on Jewish Christmas.