17 reasons to enjoy the season

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17 reasons to enjoy the season

Every time a big holiday like Christmas approaches, things get frantic at the last minute. Being stalled in the terrible traffic jams around major shopping centers does not help. The cold and dry weather this December only leads to further procrastination.

There's so much you can do that choosing the best options can be tough.

Christmas is three days away; for those looking for a little creative inspiration for the holidays, the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition compiled a list of things to do this yuletide. Merry Christmas!




Attend Mass at the Myongdong Cathedral in downtown Seoul. On Christmas day, there will be a special English service at the cathedral at 10 a.m.

Cost: free




Send a card to a loved one far away. Stamps for Christmas and New Year's cards are currently discounted. Unicef is also selling Christmas cards at various locations including the Kyobo Book Center, all Body Shops and Hyundai Department stores.

Cost: Cards are 1,000-1,200 won. Until Jan. 10, the price of one stamp to send a card overseas is 400 won.




Home fireplaces are a rarity, but if you want roasted chestnuts, all you have to do is spend a little time in Myeongdong. The streets there are ideal for browsing for last-minute gifts.

Cost: Looking is free; 2,000 won for a small bag of chestnuts.




Watch "The Nutcracker" performed by either the Universal Ballet Company or the Korean National Ballet. The Korea National Ballet will stage the Bolshoi version through Tuesday at the Seoul Arts Center (02-587-6181). The Universal Ballet Company will stage the Kirov version until Wednesday (02-2204-1041).

Cost: The Korean National Ballet performance is 20,000-50,000 won; the Universal Ballet Company, 10,000-50,000 won.



Jazz up your Christmas mood with a concert. On Dec. 24 and 25, Once in a Blue Moon (02-549-5490) in Cheongdam-dong offers jazz to dine by. The Sheraton Walker Hill (02-450-4554~5) is hosting the jazz diva Yun Hee-jung's Spectacular Christmas Gala Dinner. Reservations essential.

Cost: Dinner at Once in a Blue Moon, 70,000-80,000 won plus tax. Concert, a seven-course meal with a glass of champagne at the Sheraton Walker Hill, 130,000-150,000 won.




Take a train ride to watch the sunrise from the east coast. The Christmas train leaves at 1:10 p.m. on Dec. 24 from Seoul Station to take you to a Special Christmas Eve Concert at Eumseong Station in North Chungcheong province. On Dec. 25, you can see the sunrise from Korea's most famous sunrise site, Jeongdongjin, Gangwon province, then return to Seoul by 3:12 p.m. For reservations, call 1544-7788.

Cost: 56,000 won for the whole tour.




For Christmas on the go, try subway line No. 7. A train trimmed with Christmas decorations passes by several times a day.

Cost: 600 won (about 40 cents)




Share the spirit of Christmas with the needy. Salvation Army officers can be found on the main street of Myeongdong. Cash, a gift or food is appreciated.

Cost: your heart




How about a special Christmas meal at a cozy French bistro? Le Saint-Ex, near the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon-dong, is open on both Dec. 24 (dinner only) and Dec. 25 (lunch and dinner). The French chef Numa Bertrand will prepare his mouthwatering specialties: oyster plate, sauteed scallops, stuffed Christmas turkey, just to name a few. So wipe off that saliva and make a reservation, 02-795-2465.

Cost: 45,000-55,000 won for a full-course meal.




If you've been looking for a chic event where you can try the best champagne and caviar, this is it. The Lobby Lounge (02-559-7603) in the Grand Inter-Continental hotel in southern Seoul will be pouring 15 different kinds of fine champagne together with plates of Sevruga caviar from the Caspian Sea from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. until the end of December.

Cost: The deluxe serving is 50,000 won, super deluxe,100,000 won. Prices do not include tax and service charges.



If you want to hear handbells, head to the Shilla hotel (02-2233-3131). On Monday and Tuesday, performers will sing carols in the main lobby. Guests will receive a complimentary glass of sparkling wine.

Cost: free




Take a walk near Chongdong Theater. The quiet streets in the area are lighted with paper lanterns, creating a romantic atmosphere. While you're there, catch a movie at Star Six theater. Current shows: "Harry Potter," "Volcano High" and "Hi, Dharma."

Cost: The walk is free; a movie, 5,000-8,000 won.




Wish for a white Christmas, not only for the beautiful landscape, but for goodies. If it snows on Christmas, some Web sites will offer gifts:

www.cybersanta.co.kr, www.samsungmall.co.kr, www.beautynet.co.kr.

Cost: free




What's winter without skating? The Grand Hyatt hotel does its best to look like Rockefeller Center. The hotel's outdoor swimming pool, high on the slope of Mount Namsan, has been frozen into a skating rink. The best time to go is at night, when Seoul's streetlights shimmer in the distance, creating a winter wonderland.

Cost: 10,000 won for admission, 15,000 won for skate rentals, excluding tax.




Phoenix Park ski resort (033-333-6000) is hosting a special program for Dec. 24 and Dec. 30. The event on both nights includes a Fila fashion show of lingerie and ski wear at 8 p.m., followed by a concert by Mecca and Space A.

Cost: free. Transportation, 22,000 won for a round-trip.




Take the little ones to see Santa Claus at Lotte World in Jamsil. If you are able to bear the cold, Everland and Seoulland also are holding outdoor Christmas parades. Seoulland also has a Christmas tree-decorating contest until Tuesday.

Cost: All-access tickets to Lotte World for children are 18,000 won, 25,000 won for adults. Everland tickets are 18,000 won for children, 26,000 won for adults. Seoulland tickets are 14,000 won for children, 23,000 won for adults.




See the largest tree in Korea at the Seoul Hilton hotel. The hotel annually sets up a beautifully decorated real tree in its lobby, with a train set at the base.

Cost: free


by Inēs Cho, Joe Yong-hee

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