Need a Shot of Festive Spirit?Christmas and New Year's Events on Tap
"I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and so I say, God bless Christmas!"
So said Charles Dickens. And though Korea may not seem like the obvious location to spend Christmas, it still boasts a number of events that can help inspire that seasonal spirit. Seoul is getting ready to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year in a big way, in such venues as ski resorts, ice rinks and even cigar bars.
Here is a guide to some events for families, culture-seekers and partygoers.
If it does not snow in Seoul on Christmas Eve, the next best place to head for a white Christmas is a ski resort. Christmas Eve festivities at Phoenix Park resort in Kangwon Province include fireworks and a dance party. Popular bands Space A and Kai, as well as other musicians, will be playing outdoors from 7 p.m. There will also be a fashion show featuring the latest ski and snowboarding apparel. The hardy models will then bare more skin to parade down the runway in the latest lingerie.
For New Year's Eve, Phoenix Park has settled on the theme "Adieu 2000." Guests will bid farewell to this year and ring in 2001 with fireworks and a torch-lighting ceremony, accompanied by classical music from a Russian quartet. If you prefer a noisier ambience, the resort has also lined up a rock concert. The event is free. Fireworks start around 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 31.
For guests who are still awake in the wee hours of Jan. 1, or who are up for an early rise after a night of skiing and partying, the cable cars will be free and open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Head to Mongbullang, Phoenix Park's highest point, to watch the sunrise. Call 02-508-3400 or 033-333-6000.
If you fancy a cozy evening in an intimate setting, the Once in a Blue Moon jazz club in Cheongdam-dong has booked the Lee Jung-sik quartet, which will be playing classical holiday music Sunday night. The jazz quartet Red will perform on Monday.
"Our clientele is upscale and older, so we didn't want to throw a wild party," said a staff member.
Owner Lim Jae-hong is a self-confessed "jazz maniac." When he opened Once in a Blue Moon in 1998, he set out to offer a standard of music on a par with New York clubs Blue Note and Sweet Basil. Entrance is free. Call 02-549-5490.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Seoul has again set up a 12-meter-high illuminated Christmas tree. Each year since 1995, the tree has been trimmed with decorations from other countries. This year, decoration specialists Billy and Bryan Butchkavitz have created a tree made from Korean ceramics and decorated with women's jewelry and accessories as ornaments. These talented brothers have handled decorations for the Golden Globe and Emmy Awards. For information, call 02-3451-8235/7.
The Ritz Carlton will also host a "Jiggle Trance Party" on Christmas Eve.
"It's going to be one big party," said a DJ from party organizer 02 Productions. For 11 hours, guests can dance to music by the likes of DJ Huggie and DJ Primetime. DJs include Korea's own DJ Uno from Joker Red in the Hongdae area, and DJs from the United States east and west coasts. The party in the Grand Ballroom starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are 25,000 won ($20) at the door and include a free drink. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.02pro.com.
Another hotel party, but of a different kind, is the "Groovy '70s Gala" at the Seoul Hilton on New Year's Eve. London band Andrew Warner & the Right Stuff will perform music from the 1970s and 1980s. The highlight will be a 45-minute set of Abba hits.
The evening will begin with a cocktail reception at 7:30 p.m. Dinner includes wine and food that highlights trends from the '70s and '80s. Tickets are 150,000 won. Call 02-317-3077.
The Grand Hyatt Seoul is gearing up for the holidays with a bevy of events for families, couples and partygoers. For children, the hotel is presenting a "Christmas Santa Party." The menu caters to the whole family, with hamburgers for children and steak for adults. There are also performances of Korea's classic fable "A Turtle's Story," with a strong message about preserving the environment. Performances, in Korean, are on Dec. 24 at noon and Dec. 25 at 6 p.m. Adult tickets are 50,000 won. Tickets for children aged three to 11 are 40,000 won. Call 02-799-8475/8156.
For a more romantic evening, head to the Grand Hyatt Seoul ice skating rink. Often compared to the rink at the Rockefeller Center in New York, the Hyatt rink will center its activities on Christmas and New Year themes. Besides skating, party games and a buffet brunch or dinner, guests will be treated to a performance by the Korean national skating team. On Sunday and Dec. 31, the rink will be open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. On Monday and Jan. 1, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is 60,000 won to 70,000 won plus VAT and service charge. Call 02-799-8112/3.
Those who see the holiday vacation as an excuse to party can head for the Dance Zone 2001 year-end blast at the Hyatt's Grand Ballroom. There will be fashion shows and gifts, while seven DJs will spin a variety of sounds from hip-hop to disco to trance. The party will be held on two nights, Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, from 8:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Tickets are 30,000 won. Call 02-799-8475/8156.
The Grand Havana, Asia's self-styled "largest cigar lounge," will hold a New Year's party in a setting that evokes the atmosphere of a British gentlemen's club. The restaurant-cum-cigar lounge in Cheongdam-dong is furnished with wood panels and paintings of hunting scenes. Guests can recline on comfortable leather sofas to enjoy the club's offerings: Cuban and Jamaican cigars, cognac, whiskey and 60 varieties of wine.
Expect a crowd of "young party people, high society locals and plenty of expats," according to "End of the Twentieth Century" party organizers. Grand Havana will offer a 21-course meal in the private VIP room for those looking for special treatment beyond the buffet and drinks. The "fusion" menu combines the best of France and Asia. Call 02-514-0271.
And for those traveling by air during the holiday season, expect Korean Air's planes to be outfitted in festive decorations, according to the airline's marketing team. On domestic flights from Sunday to Dec. 31, Korean Air will offer persimmons and tangerines from Cheju Island.
by Joe Yong-hee