Holidays are coming, holidays are coming, and yet I have not seen the iconic Coke ad that is the signal to all and sundry that the Christmas season has well and truly begun. I’m beginning to wonder if I know it’s Christmas at all!
It makes me feel truly odd that it’s already the 8th of December and I’ve only heard a few Christmas songs and seen a few paltry decorations in the more Western chain stores, that is to say Starbucks and any retailer looking to cash in on the Christmas buzz.
However, that said, Korea doesn’t have much of a “Christmas buzz” for they don’t have the Catholic or Christian roots so strongly evidenced back home. Christmas here is view as one of two things: a holiday for Westerners and the minority of Christians and Catholics, thoroughly part of some culture other than that of the natives; or something cutesy for couples to indulge in. Either way there’s not a whole lot of traction for the Christmas industry’s wheels to gain.
Back home Christmas is a decadent season of festive cheer and fattening foods bought at exorbitant prices because they’ve got a Santa Claus on the box and came from Marks and Spencer… Not that I wouldn’t mind a bag of Double Devon Toffees and some Luxury Mince Pies, or a box of festive biscuits… It seems I’ve wandered off topic, thinking with my stomach as usual!
On top of all of the food there’s time off work and school to look forward to, too. Two glorious weeks for primary and secondary schools, even longer for universities, and even office workers are allowed a day or two’s respite. Only those in retail and hospitality know the pain of the Christmas season. In Korea, our holidays are somewhat less indulgent at a perfunctory one day, Christmas Day. Understandable, I know, but still a bit disappointing. Less time to dwell on all the fun (or the wars) we’re missing back home I guess, keeping our minds occupied and away from thoughts of the Festive Season.
To bring back in a bit of what’s missing I managed to get some gifts together to post home, to give myself the feeling of being part of the Christmas back home even if I’m not there. Now in the years gone by, Irish families might expect a box of USA biscuits in the post from America and anticipate them with excitement. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately depending on your tastes, I don’t have any USA biscuits to send and instead opted for other different presents (which I shan’t unveil here for obvious reasons). I will admit I didn’t ship home any Kimchi because 1. It’s probably illegal to do so and 2. I don’t think my mother would appreciate the smell of the fermented cabbage in her fridge from now until the end of time.
So this brings me back to my question, do I know it’s Christmas? The answer is both yes and no. My head says well it’s December so it must be nearly Christmas, and my bank balance is beginning to agree, but I don’t feel so festive as I normally would. Although having worked in retail the last 3 years I guess I usually start feeling festive around Halloween!
So to all the other expats reading this, what is the one thing that will let you know it’s truly Christmas and get you into the festive spirit?