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Dec 26

Making Our Own Holiday Spirit for Christmas in Korea

One of my best friends is a few months pregnant right now but I’d venture to say that my food baby is bigger than her real baby. The last week of Christmas festivities has impregnated me with a belly so full of butter and sugar that I wouldn’t be surprised if I sneezed and gave birth to a giant cookie. But that’s what the holidays are all about, right? Giving yourself, as my wise friend Kieran puts it, “an inner basting”.

Spending my first Christmas abroad and away from home this year has put the meaning of Christmas in a whole new perspective. I read this lovely blog post today about how Christmas is not about the presents you give and receive but what you make of it and the spirit you put into it. Its a mentality that is commonly spoken of to the point of being cliche, and yet a reality that many people tend to forget with the overwhelming commercialism of the holiday.

A surprising fact I learned about South Korea this year is that, although they acknowledge and lightly celebrate it, Christmas is not a very big deal here. In fact, it’s considered a couple’s holiday more akin to Valentines Day. My dance teacher asked me if I had a boyfriend and when I told him I didn’t, his face contorted into a sad and horrified expression as he cried, “but what will you do on Christmas?!” I explained that I would be having a party with my friends and he seemed somewhat relieved, saying, “Oh, so you will drink? Good. Single people should drink on Christmas.” It’s a good thing I had planned on it anyway.

zooey deschanel "I'm gonna die alone" meme

So in a land that has no concept of the naughty or nice list, no idea what mistletoe is, no traditions of cookie making or caroling, my friends and I realized it was up to us to create our own Christmas spirit. It was actually a little refreshing to be away from the stress that the holidays sometimes bring and to pick and choose what aspects of Christmas we wanted to celebrate. Although I missed home terribly and being away made me appreciate the holiday time with family that much more, I’d say we did a pretty good job of making our own Christmas in Asia.

 

Here’s how my Christmas in Korea looked:

 

Last weekend we held a Christmas concert and sang carols to raise money for a local orphanage. I sang a duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and may have forgotten the lyrics halfway through. Afterward we went to a bar where a friend’s band was playing and attempted to sing more Christmas songs on the fly.

Christmas performance collage

We made and decorated a bajillion sugar cookies. I took a bag of them to work the next day and polished them off before noon. Inner basting: phase 1. Afterwards we watched Elf and proceeded to quote the movie for the rest of the week.

Making christmas cookies

 

On Monday night I stayed up until 2am making hundreds of cookies, brownies, and chocolate covered pretzels from my coworkers. They were gobbled down in minutes and I received a few thank you notes, my favorite of which included, “Thanks a cookie… atmosphere of Christmas I will.” Yay Konglish!

Making christmas cookies

 

On Christmas eve we made mulled wine, ate a huge dinner, played card games, and walked to the nearby university campus to view a beautiful light display they had (and ruin the romantic atmosphere for all the surrounding couples).

Christmas eve collage

Christmas lights in Korea

Christmas lights in Korea

 

Christmas day brought another feast and endless mimosas, opening stockings, watching a Christmas Story, and (for me) a requisite food coma nap on the couch.

Christmas breakfast and mimosas

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Christmas day festivities

This is what a Christmas nap looks like. I am not ashamed. Photo courtesy of Allie, who loves to take embarrassing photos of me.

All in all my first Christmas in Korea was quite merry and filled with holiday cheer! But I am unbelievably excited to be visiting home in two weeks… bring on the Mexican food baby. Ole!