I walked into work on the 24th and was greeted with a cheery “Merry Christmas!” from one of my coworkers. I looked at her blankly for a split second…huh, Christmas? Oh right, it’s Christmaaas! I responded with an overly enthusiastic, “Oh, Merry Christmas to you too!” It had completely escaped my mind that it was in fact Christmas Eve…
Christmas in Korea just didn’t feel quite as festive as it does back at home. Yes, Seoul does the whole shebang – trees covered in ornaments, the advertisements showing KPOP stars in cute Santa outfits, the jolly jingles playing in the department stores, and the ice skating in front of City Hall. However, once you venture out of the capital to say my good ol’ home in Yongin, well, it could be any drab winter day (except for the local bakery – they did a stellar job with the decorations, but they are the only exception).
How did I celebrate Christmas Eve?
Haha, well, I didn’t. I got off work at 9:30 pm by which time I was too tired to think of venturing out in search of dinner, and by the looks of it, the pyjama-clad boy felt the same way. I curled up with a copy of The Historian instead and let my mind drift into the world of Dracula…Perfect reading material for the holidays, wouldn’t you say?
This was a bit more exciting than the previous night’s lack of festivities – but still no turkey or stuffing in sight. Sam and I met up with some of my friends who recently moved here from Canada (hi Hannah & Dallas!) We opted for a Korean feast at a traditional hanok restaurant which consisted of galbi (갈비), bulgogi (불고기), and your typical assortment of side dishes like kimchi, sweet potato noodles, seaweed soup, potato salad, and a dish that looked a lot like frog legs (?) but could have possibly been crab…I guess we’ll never know.
The highlight of the meal - a bottle of North Korean wine, courtesy of our friends who had recently visited the DMZ. The wine was a lot thicker than your average bottle of Merlot, and tasted a lot like cough syrup; almost like a sweet liqueur but not quite. And the sediment floating at the bottom of the bottle, errm, that was to add a little extra kick.
And that was Christmas in Korea! A bit unusual, but certainly memorable.
What’s the strangest Christmas you’ve spent abroad?
* Funny. I just noticed the boy had commented on the short Christmas post I wrote last year long before we ever met. Who would’ve guessed that a year later I’d be spending the holidays with him…