Today I feel like spending a little bit of time on an issue that has been bouncing around lately: Christmas. Now I know that’s only the 4th day of December, but lets have a little chat about it anyways.
I posted yesterday about how Christmas in Korea is different than in Canada. When I first experienced it 5 years ago, I didn’t really value it for what it was. It was my first major holiday away from home – leaving after Thanksgiving, but right before Remembrance Day (not a major holiday, but it was the first one after the loss of Larry).
I did online shopping for my parents and brother, having all the boxes sent to the house and having them addressed to certain people so that no surprises would be ruined. That year, I made a nice long list of things I wanted and my parents shipped items to me. As the holiday drew closer, I started asking my students what they were asking Santa for, and more often than not the answer I got was “nothing”. A few of them said they were asking for games or books, but the majority were asking for nothing or for a really good English-Korean electronic dictionary. They are about the size of those handheld playstation things? And worth their weight in gold for any student trying to master English. My list on the other hand, was this very detailed, specific list of things to get me.
Stores here play Christmas music, but its mixed in with non-Christmas as well. I’ve heard songs in English, Korean and French this year. Stores play music inside and outside which makes my day a little bit happier. It doesn’t start until December 1st, so it’s not the assault on your senses like in the West. Christmas displays are kept to a minimum, and are always tasteful. The hogwan I am at right now has one small fake Christmas tree set up right in the entrance way. It’s only about 4-5 feet tall and decorated in red and gold. But that’s it. I was in the super market the other day, and I noticed their Christmas section – from what I could tell it was just a small corner by an escalator. A nice selection of individual cards and then little bits to decorate. No big boxes of cards so you can send 50 cards to everyone you know with a “Merry Christmas! Love T” written inside. My aunt’s cards are always the most original, the one she sends my parents reads “Sarah” on the inside, and the one she sends me says “Aunt Sarah” (name changed of course!). No more effort than just signing her name to it and addressing the envelope.
I have really appreciated the perspective I have gained by celebrating an Asian Christmas. While it is still a holiday here, it’s more like a family day. Of course the government jobs will have it off, no bank will be open! But mail was delivered last time on Christmas – and it was on a Saturday! Most non-retail jobs will have it off as well. But malls will be open, stores will be open. It’s the spending time with family that seems to matter the most.
Ever since I returned home, I have seen holidays in a different light. I love the time spent with family, or at least knowing they are close by when I honestly just can’t take another second of my mother. I find the requirement of making a list akin to medieval torture at times! If you are going to buy me something, I’d much rather have it be something that you have seen that reminds me of you, or better yet – something that you have made. I LOVE HOMEMADE GIFTS! If I do make a list, I’m hardly ever surprised by what I am given. I tend to be very specific. I don’t want an ipod, I want a 16GB ipod nano in either blue, red or green. I want this inscribed on the back. I think that if someone is going to make the effort to get me something from my list, I want it to be something that I will love and use. This started after one year I wrote “lamp for bedroom” on my list, and supplied a variety of styles I liked for reference. I was 16 at the time and just developing my own personal decorating style. My mom bought me a lamp, a BEAUTIFUL lamp – the base was brown, and the pole looked like green shattered glass, like the stem of a rose, and then the shade was the same shattered glass but a soft pinky lavendery colour and in the shape of the bud of the rose. It was so pretty!! But I promptly took it back because I personally hated it, it didn’t match my room, my brand new bedding, or my personality. So now my lists are carefully crafted in order to avoid the returning and hurt feelings part of the holidays.
This year I didn’t even make a list. This created a good day and a half of attitude from the mother, but I don’t want anything. I don’t need anything. I had to leave behind so much stuff I wanted to pack but couldn’t fit in, so why would I make a list for more stuff? At most I’d want the new colouring book “Lost Ocean” but I’m not even a quarter of the way through the one I bought in July. Or maybe a new cross stitch project. Not really high on my “omg I will die if I don’t get this!” list. My dad did buy me an early Christmas gift, it’s this power box thing, like a portable battery for my electronics. It has come in handy this past week before I found a convertor box at the supermarket. I bought presents for my family before I left, and they are currently all wrapped and under my bed in Canada. My brother has been informed to bring them out when he gets home for the holidays. Even that small gesture was to avoid conflict with my mom. I think my dad might be a little disappointed if I didn’t at least attempt to be part of Christmas but I would probably be disowned by my mom if I didn’t get her anything. I know she doesn’t get a lot of presents throughout the year, but her putting more emphasis on getting her wish list out instead of me leaving really throws a damper on the whole thing.
Well, I’ve kind of rambled all over the place so I should probably wrap it all up. Not sure I said what I set out to say, but that’s ok. Basically it boils down to just a few things: Over emphasis on gifts and consumerism = bad. More emphasis on family and love and time together and being kind to each other = good.