I’m not in Korea anymore, but Korea’s still in me, so when I saw this Korean-style nativity scene, I couldn’t help but use the occasion to offer my season’s greetings to all the readers of vagabondage.
For those wondering about Christmas in Korea. . . First and foremost, as the nativity scene indicates, the holiday is an reverent celebration for the millions of Korean Christians who have no trouble whatsoever making this “foreign” religion very much their own.
Then there is the secular holiday. . . which is the day to play. If you have are in a romance and fail to take out your sweetie on Christmas Eve, then you are sunk. So, this gives a hint as to what it is about Christmas that most adheres to the non-Christian – much the same East or West – a cozy, romantic, gift-giving time of mirth in the middle of a dark and cold end of the year time of reckoning. Bottom line – Christmas Eve is one of the most rockinist crowded evenings of the year, as captured on a subway platform below by a fellow Fulbrighter and now freelance photographer in Seoul:
Also of interest is the inter-religious aspect of Christmas, given that Korea is indeed a majority non-Christian nation with Buddhism being the largest non-Christian relgion. Happily, there is a more-or-less peaceful co-existence, as the government has declared both Jesus’ and Buddha’s Birthdays ( 8th day of the 4th lunar month) as national holidays. Granted, the Catholics get along much better with the Buddhists than the Protestants, but these days things seem pretty copacetic. Some of the monks have even gotten into the Christmas spirit:
And the head of Korean Buddhism’s largest sect, the Jogye Order, issued a Christmas message saying
“On behalf of 20 million Buddhists in Korea, I express heartfelt congratulations on the coming of Jesus into the world. The birth of Jesus taught us love and peace. Following the teachings of Jesus and Buddha, we should make efforts that the warm and bright light of mercy and peace can shine upon this world, by conquering anger with patience, evil with good, and untruth with truth.”
Considering that Buddha and Jesus both led celibate lives teaching peace, love, humility and understanding, there is certainly no reason why we can’t all enjoy one another’s celebrations, no?
So, Christian or no, Peace and Love, y’all!