Christmas Mass in Korea

This year I decided to change things up from the last two years I’ve been in Korea. So, I decided to go to church at 8pm on Christmas Eve. By the way, there are two ‘types of churches’ in Korea: Catholic Churches (성당) and Protestant Christian Churches (교회). Catholic Churches are harder to find while Protestant Christian Churches are super prevalent and in every town and city (even Angye had one).

Anyway, in American Catholic Churches, Christmas Eve masses are usually packed. As in, all the places to sit are taken and there often quite a few people and families standing. The church I went to in Korea was not nearly so busy. Not only was there no one standing, families were not squished together and there were even empty pews (benches).

Granted the church I went to was bigger than this–but I was expecting similar attendance

At the beginning of mass, there was a slightly embarrassing moment when everyone turned around..basically facing me. I started to turn around too…but apparently, the people I was looking for were standing right next to me.  lol.  #awkward

In the aisle, there were 4 girls dressed like angels and 4 old men altar servers. Everyone watched them walk up to the altar.

In the aisle, there were 4 girls dressed like angels and 4 old men altar servers. Everyone watched them walk up to the altar.

I haven’t gone to a mass lit by candles before. So I didn’t know/realize the importance of bringing a candle. Although the entire mass wasn’t in the dark, the church kept the lights off for the first 15~20 minutes. (By the way, mass lasted 90~100 minutes!!!!  I’m used to like 1 hour for Christmas mass.)

This church had the similar set up with a large ledge on the back of every pew. No one had to hold their candles.

The only other thing that was a bit odd was when everyone started getting up and going to the center of the aisle. I was really confused, but I guessed they were giving money. I was half right. Everyone, two at a time, bowed in front of the nativity scene, then dropped money into one of two boxes (one to the right and the other to the left of the altar) before taking their seats. Speaking of the nativity, I’m used to seeing the baby Jesus with a small piece of clothing on his body and his arms open. This baby was all bundled up in a blanket.

I gave up looking for the ‘perfect match’ of what I saw. It’s just give you an idea…and it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.

Catholic churches are kind of ‘in’famous for their sit/stand/kneel ‘work-out’ during mass. The church I went to didn’t have any of the kneeling benches, so there was only a sit/stand routine. Aside from these things, there weren’t too many differences. Other than being entirely in Korean, it was basically a Catholic mass. It was kind of interesting to hear the famous Christmas songs like “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” sung in Korean. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!



  1. Anonymous · · Reply

    Pretty cool experience, never been to a church whre they use candles. THis year I did not go to mass. Last year I went, let me just say it was a singing mass. Every word was sung. meaning that mass lasted almost three hours. I said to mom that year, I will never come back to one of these. The priest was all enthusiastic. When I departed that day, I said to the Lord, sorry Lord but not like this, lol

    1. Yep, the songs are what made it so slow. And then the beats to some of the songs were also painfully slow…I thought some had a depressing sound to them when we should have had a more joyful experience.

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