[Weekender] As pandemic continues, Christmas home parties evolve
Here’s how young Koreans plan to spend their second Christmas under the pandemic
Published : Dec 25, 2021 - 16:00
Updated : Dec 27, 2021 - 11:10
Grand Hyatt Seoul’s Christmas “to-go” dining consists of roasted turkey, beef wellington, roasted chicken, slow-roasted ribeye, mushroom soup, grilled vegetables, and mashed potatoes. (Grand Hyatt Seoul)
For Kim Yo-sup, a 23-year-old student in Seoul, Christmas last year was a nightmare. Being forced to stay at home, a Zoom Christmas party was his only practical option to celebrate the holidays. Come this holiday season, he is determined to avoid a repeat of last year.

“Before COVID-19, I used to party outside on Christmas Eve until Christmas with my friends. Last year, I was living with my parents. So I was extra careful and met my friends through Zoom on Christmas. This year, I will be going over to my friend’s house for a home party,” he said.

Like Kim, many young Koreans have given up partying outdoors like they enjoyed before the pandemic two years ago. Instead, they are taking this year’s indoor celebrations up a notch.

The hotel industry, caterers and local retailers have all geared up to provide the best packages to target a more virus-wary party crowd.

Lotte Hotel, for instance, runs a “fine dining at home” promotion where customers are provided with a full-course meal made by the hotel’s chef along with some Christmas decor to make feasting at home a full-on festive occasion. 

Grand Hyatt Seoul also launched its “Christmas To-Go” sets that consists of a diverse menu, offering roasted turkey, roasted chicken, beef wellington, slow-roast ribeye and crispy pork belly porchetta. An array of side menus such as mushroom soup, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables are available.

Family restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse and VIPS are also selling Christmas home party meal packages that can be delivered right to the customers’ doorsteps.

The meals can be ordered through delivery apps such as Baemin, Yogiyo and Coupang Eats.

“For people like me who cannot even cook meal kits right, holiday food delivery is a lifesaver. Plus, delivery food feels much fancier than meal kits,” said Kim Ye-eun, a lawyer.

Coffee brands such as A Twosome Place and Hollys Coffee are offering Christmas cakes and other sweet treats for the season.

A customer browses meal-kits sold during winter holiday season in a convenience store. (Emart24)
“As our customers want to save up their time and effort needed to prepare for a Christmas party, we tried to provide products and services that enhance party quality and at the same time convenience. We expect our cake delivery service to attract many ‘home-partiers,’” said Kwon Keun-hee, a brand marketer for Hollys F&B.

But this does not mean that preparing for Christmas parties at home with meal kits is old-school.

Christmas meal kits that were only available to order on Market Kurly and Hello Nature mobile applications, or ones that could be bought in supermarkets, are now available even in convenience stores.

“As home parties have become part of our culture, more people are looking for home party-related products in convenience stores. So Emart24 is now selling meal kits for steak, pepperoni mac and cheese and butter garlic pasta,” said Yim Su-been, who is in charge of public relations for Emart24.

According to Emart24, sales of home party-related products from Dec. 1-20 have grown compared to the same period last year.

Wine sales went up by 284 percent on-year, cakes by 138 percent and meal kits by 48 percent.

Wine sales have increased on-year this December, as home-partying becomes part of Christmas culture in S. Korea. (Shinsegae International)
Sales of wine openers, wine glasses and decanters have also gone up.

South Korean online grocery delivery platform Market Kurly announced Thursday that its sales of meal kits for the period of Dec. 1-21 surged by 20 times compared to last month.

The most popular meal kit was mac and cheese, followed by gambas, steak, and pasta.

“I think having a home party for Christmas has become something natural, something that we think is obvious. We used to eat out at a nice restaurant but since last year, I was automatically thinking, ‘What should I cook for the home party?’” said Song Kyung-won, a steward.

The final touch for a Christmas home party? The matching decor.

If last year was about decorating with balloons and tinsel, this year is about the lighting, according to Shinsegae International.

Sales of light installations such as light-emitting diode bulbs, mood lamps and beam projectors increased by 25 percent this month on-year, according to Shinsegae International.

Winter season tableware saw a 38.6 percent sales growth on-year for the period of Dec. 1-20.

Some even put up pictures of exotic destinations with a beam projector at home to make it feel like they are traveling overseas.
Winter vibe tableware and decor adds a final touch to Christmas home parties. (Shinsegae)
“This year, I bought a beam projector to watch Christmas movies with my friends at home. Not only that, I found that it’s a thing to put up nice scenery with the beam projector to make it feel like we are having fun somewhere else,” said Lee Ji-won, 28.

People are also looking for other ways to give Christmas presents to loved ones via mobile apps’ gift and shopping features.

“I bought a ticket to an exhibition and gave it to my friend who really wanted to go to that exhibition. And a colleague of mine, he said he will send his mom flowers on Christmas using an app’s gift feature,” said Baek Ju-eun, a marketing manager.

Kakao Commerce, the e-commerce unit of South Korea’s platform giant Kakao Corp., told The Korea Herald it had seen a “remarkable growth of sales” for home party-related gifts this year.

Board games and gaming devices saw a 662 percent year-on-year growth, followed by visual electronic devices such as TVs and beam projectors at 232 percent and party apparel with 112 percent growth.

By Hong Yoo (