I was always a holiday season fiend. After my early November birthday, everything was a snowball down hill from there (in the best possible way!) Thanksgiving, my mom's birthday, Christmas, New Years...decorations, trees, too many pine-scented candles, music (especially Charlie Brown Jazz) - the festivities were full of excitement, wonder, and magic. I had the traditional American Christmas upbringing.
This year is the first Christmas I will spend in the US since 2012. I had been living in South Korea, as many of you know, on and off since 2011.
I should give a little background and tell you that Korea celebrates Christmas, but in a slightly different way. For one, it's not much of a "family" holiday. The day is spent with a significant other, rather than at a large family get-together. Also, the holiday activities are reserved for strictly outside the home. Christmas music? Yes, in the shopping mall. Decorations and presents? In the department store. There's rarely a full-size Christmas tree, decked out in anyone's living room. In Korea, there simply isn't room!
[[Disclaimer: These are simply my observations of a culture that I lived in for a few years, not necessarily the cold, hard facts.]]
In the years I spent away from the American, larger-than-life, materialistic, year-end debacle, I learned 3 things:
1. December 25 is just a day; like December 26, or the 27...
2. Getting caught up in the culture and stress of decorating, gift-giving, and obligations can drain your energy and your wallet.
3. Even without a tree, you can still have a fantastic Christmas
My past Korean Christmases include:
- 2011:: Contracting bronchitis, staying over with my best friend Katie and her husband Michael, exchanging gifts, and then traveling back to my own city to nurse my illness
- 2013:: Celebrating by walking around downtown Jinju with my then-boyfriend, and feeling Christmas-y (how else is there to describe the lights, the music, the hustle and bustle? I think "Christmas-y is sufficient.)
- 2014:: Setting up a pathetic tree with my husband in our tiny Korean apartment but feeling like a kid again when I see several presents under the tree
- 2015:: Feeling depressed because I didn't want to live in Korea any longer, and at the same time feeling hopeful that I would be moving back to the US soon.
These collective holidays experiences were hardly traditional.
I think my apathy for Christmas has come from watching another culture honor their own holidays. Surrounding each special celebration, whether Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) or Sun-lal (Korean New Years'), there is an ungainly amount of work to be done, usually by the women of the family. Moms, aunts, grandmas, and moms-in-training must clean, cook, and feed too many people - and barely use their vacation for its purpose: rest! I could liken it to my own mom around the holidays. She's a wonderful woman, but also puts herself under the stress and obligation of the season: cleaning, cooking, and again, feeding too many people.
So for me? Maybe I'm a Scrooge. I don't have a tree. I didn't put up twinkle lights. I did however, buy my husband a present...
But I want Christmas to be about some of my favorite things: comfort, joy, and peace.
I think we're going to eat out at Red Lobster on Christmas. Maybe my tradition will be...always something new?