On Sunday, which marked the first Christmas holiday without social distancing measures in place since 2019, a large crowd gathered in downtown Seoul.
In the evening, a large crowd gathered at the main Shinsegae Department Store in Myeong-dong, Jung-gu, to take pictures in front of the Christmas-themed media façade. A line longer than 40 meters formed in a nearby alley. Kim Seo-yeon, a 17-year-old from Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, said that she was excited to spend the holiday with her friends after being unable to do so due to social distancing measures the previous year. Despite the cold wave that brought temperatures down to minus 10 degrees Celsius on the night before Christmas Eve, the streets of Gangnam and Hongdae were crowded with people waiting in lines of 50 to 100 people in front of some pubs.
However, the autonomous districts, police, store owners, and citizens paid special attention to safety as they celebrated the first Christmas since the Itaewon disaster.
To ensure the safety of the large crowds, Myeong-dong street vendors voluntarily closed their stalls to secure a passage. On Saturday, all 362 street vendors registered with the Jung-gu Office were closed, and many remained closed on Sunday. Park Dae-jin, a 42-year-old stall owner, volunteered for traffic management duties with a light stick to reduce the risk of accidents and create a safer environment. Shinsegae Department Store also ensured safety by dividing the media façade viewing area into four sections and deploying security guards to disperse crowds.
To ensure the safety of the crowds gathered at the Hongik University entrance, the police set up a safety fence in the center of the street and implemented one-way traffic. Gangnam-gu Office staff worked in three groups in the area around Gangnam Station to manage crowd safety. Citizens also demonstrated increased awareness of safety. Park Han-gyu, a 20-year-old college student visiting Hongik University, said, "I believe it's more important to prioritize safety over having fun."
In the meantime, on Sunday, masses, and services honoring the birth of Jesus Christ took place in cathedrals and churches across the country without any limits on the number of attendees for the first time in three years.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul celebrated a mass at Myeongdong Cathedral in Jung-gu, presided over by Archbishop Jeong Sun-taek. In his address, Archbishop Jeong prayed for the grace of the Lord's Christmas to reach all those who are marginalized, poor, sick, suffering materially or mentally, or living in the horrors of war.
Yoido Full Gospel Church held six Christmas celebration services with Pastor Lee Young-hoon, senior pastor and president of the Korean Federation of Churches. "We must live a life of humility and service just as Jesus did,” Pastor Lee said.
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