From now on our troubles will be out of sight.
Here in Seoul I don’t get to experience a lot of the traditional harbingers of Christmas. No fireplace and evergreen in my living room, no Winter Walk in my hometown, no CinCC or Winds of Christmas at Gustavus, no abundance of decorations and Christmas music in every store, no Christmas concerts and swing dances, no Calvin & Hobbes-esque snowmen or blow-up nativity scene (though the latter is not necessarily missed), and right now there’s not even snow on the ground. Add to that the fact that I just completed a 9-hour Monday like any other week, and one might be led to think that this is just a normal Monday. But in spite of all the evidence I am thoroughly convinced that there is indeed only one more sleep ’til Christmas.
If you haven’t noticed, Christmas is not the same in Korea. You may see some decorations and Christmas music here and there, but nothing to the extent of America. And though it’s a public holiday in Korea and teachers get the day off, for many teachers that’s the extent of it. They’ll be going back to work on Wednesday. I was fortunate enough to have Christmas line up with my winter vacation, so I get a whopping 7 days off work. But for most Koreans this is just a day to relax and catch up on sleep. It’s not a family Holiday, there’s no big meal or gift exchange. A co-worker heard a student say “my mom said now that I’m 9 I’m too old for Christmas presents.” Almost tragic, right? My students that I talked to had no plans aside from sleeping and relaxing. In fact, I was kind of surprised to realize that there really is no equivalent in Korea to a Western Christmas. There aren’t any holidays that are celebrated with the duration or intensity of Christmas. Not Chuseok, New Year, nor Seollal. They’re missing out!
But that’s not the case for me. Though it’s a bit harder to find here, if you look hard enough, there’s certainly magic in the air. I’m certain it won’t be like home, but I’ve still got plans for the day, and for the week, actually. Oh boy, do I have goals! What does an expat do in Korea over Christmas, you may ask? Well I’ll tell you! Tomorrow I’m going to my church’s Christmas service. The service is in Korean, but the pastor of our English service said he could get a translation set up. I’ve also got dinner plans with friends (Brazilian!) and skyping in to my family’s gift exchange at night. The rest of my day will probably include a nap, maybe a trip to the gym, reading, or getting a number of things on my to-do list crossed off.
Speaking of to-do lists, this week I’m hoping to be pretty productive: I have a couple letters from friends and family back home that need responses written, I’ve got a couple gifts to still order, some music equipment I want to buy, and I need to figure out how to transfer money home. I also want to go in to get measured for my first tailored suit. Finally, and more drastically, I’ve been considering orthodontics for some time now, and will likely go in for some consultations to get invisalign. I may be saying goodbye to the gap! I’ll certainly keep you all posted.
As the hour approaches nearer, have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light! Merry Christmas!