Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Korea

I remember learning when I was a small child about the various ways Christmas is celebrated all around the world.  A list of peculiar customs, however, can't really get across how different the holiday can seem when you step into another culture.

Here in South Korea, nearly thirty per cent of the people subscribe to Christianity of one kind or another.  It's not the kind of cultural domination I've been steeped in for a quarter century of life in the United States, but it's a minority to be reckoned with.  Churches stick out around here (there's one not far from my apartment), and I've rarely known Christians to be shy about sharing their traditions.

And yet, the grocery stores aren't blasting Christmas music today.  They aren't festooned with decorations.  The outside world looks pretty much like it did two weeks ago, and as I expect it will continue to look until the snow melts.  Things were different when we visited the city last week; Christmas K-pop and Christmas deals were readily found in the mall.  But here in the outskirts, one would hardly know it's Christmas.

As I've had it explained to me, Christmas is simply not a huge deal here.  It's known, of course, and people tend to get the day off from work.  But rather than the pole around which the other holidays revolve, a time when everyone goes home to be with their families, it's seen as being something primarily for young couples to enjoy.  

And that's ok, I guess.  We're a young couple, and we're enjoying ourselves.  But Tara and I agree that this Christmas, for us, is definitely different.

I'm not complaining, of course.  I think the omnipresence of Christmas festivities back home can be off-putting.  But it's also something we've become accustomed to.  It's probably the strangest difference we've encountered so far.

Tara's a little under the weather today, so we didn't go out today.  Instead, we stayed in and did Christmas the best we could.  We gave each other presents and watched Christmas movies (and also, Buffy the Vampire Slayers).  We worked together to make a delicious Christmas feast.  There's little snowmen on the microwave, and a strand of lights on our wall.  Bing Crosby's singing White Christmas.  There's a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge.  There's no fire, but it still feels about right.

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