When you hear ‘Christmas’, imagery of decorated houses, strewn Christmas lights, cinnamon candles burning, cookies in the oven and a constant flow and family and friends typically comes to mind. It probably comes as no shock that Christmas in Korea looks quite a bit different. Although we celebrate it as a time to draw close to family and friends and celebrate Christ’s birth; for Koreans, it’s the most romantic and date driven day of the year. If you have a special someone in your life, Christmas Eve and Christmas are celebrated much like Valentine’s Day in the States. There are even some popular areas in Seoul and Busan that shut off all the lights at midnight on Christmas so couples can kiss in the dark.
So what does Christmas look like for us? Not quite the same as back home but something that I have grown to love all the same. I try to keep all the traditions I can from back home such as homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning like my dad makes every year, or making homemade decorations since they can be expensive and hard to find here. But there is one thing that I actually love about being an expat in a different country during Christmas and that’s being disconnected. Disconnected from the ads, the crowds and the commercialized version of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with all of this, I’ve just been able to view it from an outsiders perspective. And I’ve grown to just enjoy getting back to the root of what the holiday means to me, without all of the other distractions that are so easy to fall into. All the ads plastered everywhere promoting the latest and greatest, parents stressed out to try and pay for a Christmas their kids will love and the pressure to buy buy and impress.
Living in Korea, Jeremy and I have been able to lead a much more simplistic lifestyle compared to back home. Most of our disposable income is spent on travel, majority of our furniture was found in the trash (ok, this is a little extreme for most I agree), and many things are not available here so we’ve learned to live without many of the products and conveniences of home (although we never complain when boxes full of American goodies get sent in the mail). It’s been a sort of big ‘reset’ button on our thinking towards spending, need vs. want and how we view consumerism. And these views have followed into the holidays. Living in Korea has shown us that you don’t need a fully decorated apartment, pile full of gifts under the tree, or many other things that signify ‘Christmas’ in the States to truly have a great holiday. What’s most important to us is time spent with those you love, enjoying holiday traditions while making new ones of your own and most importantly to Jeremy and me is celebrating the birth of Christ. All you need at Christmas are the ones you care about…and peppermint hot chocolate never hurt either. I hope you all have a great Christmas and get to celebrate with the ones you love!