Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in Korea

The Christmas house we created to hang our stockings in

Hey everyone.  An interesting thing happened to the entire country of Korea on Wednesday.  Everyone had the day off.  But it wasn't a holiday.

Why you ask.  Because Wednesday was the Korean Presidential Election Day and everyone gets time off to vote.  In a totally unrelated development, the election turnout here was around 70%.  Any idea what US election turnout is?  (hint: about half of that)  And Americans don't get the day off to vote.  I'm sensing a hidden connection here somewhere.

Aside from a clear opportunity for my home country to improve itself, Wednesday was also a wonderful day for relaxing.  It's been cold and busy leading up to Christmas and the day off was extremely welcome.

Christmas in Korea is celebrated differently than in America.  It is nowhere near as omnipresent as in the US.  There will be a small tree in a store window here.  A few lights on a counter there.  Nothing like the grandiose displays of Europe and America.  Christmas here is seen as either A) a chance to spend more time with family (like pretty much every other holiday is)  or B) as a date day.  Often a gift or two is exchanged but rarely is there a tree packed with gifts as is common in the West.  As part of that, Christmas Eve is treated like any other day and is definitely a work and school day.  On the plus side, my academy has decided to have a Christmas Party Monday evening with the kids.

Our Christmas house without the cool effects

Christmas seems to occupy an interesting place here, similar to Halloween.  It's a Western holiday that is recognized and sort of celebrated.  However, since it's not a traditional holiday it's not given the same precedence as Korean holidays are.  As such Vicky and I set out to provide our own Christmas setup.  We have Christmas music playing consistently in our apartment, Christmas lights in cool patterns and Christmas movies are an evening pleasure we've indulged in frequently after work.  Vicky even made chocolate peanut butter balls Tuesday.  It was like Angels were dancing on my tongue.

That burst of joy makes me think of home and the loved ones there I can't wait to see again, whether family or friends.  And since I'm being sentimental (and/or corny), there's no sense half doing it.  So I'll finish with one of my favorite Christmas song lyrics.

"Although it's been said, many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you!"

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