This story about experiencing Christmas festivities in South Korea is written by one of our contributors, Nurul Mimsy. Some parts of the article may have been edited for length and clarity.
1. Tell us about your trip to South Korea
I went on a tour of South Korea in mid December with my mum for about two weeks. She booked a pre planned trip with a tour agency so we did not get to choose what goes on our itinerary and most of our trip was spent in Seoul. Nonetheless, just as any other tour, we got a little taste of everything. Even though we did not manage to experience snowfall, we did get to experience the winter atmosphere and that was honestly good enough for me.
2. How did you manage to witness the Christmas festivities and where was it?
I had a little taste of Christmas at Everland in Yongin, South Korea. It was one of the stops during the tour and my sole purpose was to try the wooden roller coaster (T Express). However, upon arrival, I noticed that the theme park was covered in Christmas decorations. I was sort of drawn into the Christmas atmosphere by accident.
3. Did you intentionally visit the place to celebrate Christmas or was it something you unintentionally stumbled upon?
No, it was all purely coincidental and unexpected.
4. Could you describe the atmosphere during the celebrations? How did you feel during the experience?
It was pretty festive! The entire theme park had somehow switched into Christmas mode with all of the decorations. There were mascots dressed as Santa girls and elves running about and taking photos with the visitors. To my surprise, even the weekly parade was Christmas themed! They had sleighs, reindeers and all the sights. For a moment, I felt like it was exactly like how it was in the movies and I was at a Christmas Winter Carnival with colourful lights, sounds coming from the carnival games and a huge ferris wheel in the background. It would have been perfect if it was snowing!
5. What did you learn from the experience of joining in Christmas celebrations? Was there anything that surprised you?
At the entrance, the staff welcomed us into the theme park by saying hello and wishing us to have a Merry Christmas. My mum and I just smiled with a thank you and a slight nod. However, there was another lady in my tour group that was offended for some reason and murmured back to me, "How can he say Merry Christmas to us? We're Muslims." I was quite taken aback but I just smiled and walked away from her, before accidentally offending her even further.
To be honest, I was quite surprised by this lady's reaction. Having worked at a theme park, I assumed that maybe this was part of their job to get visitors into the festive mood and didn't give much thought into it. To me, it was just a simple wish and I'm sure the staff means well. But I guess, that's the thing with human perception. What is right to one person, might not be okay to another. This was definitely an eye opener to me - that there are different types of Muslims out there and not everyone has the same level of understanding when it comes to celebrations and might become overly sensitive over certain matters.
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