Monday, December 27, 2010

It's not Christmas Without...

Hope all y'all had an awesome Christmas weekend (without any extra days off)...

On Christmas Day, Paul Ajosshi posted this video of a lovely postmodern, post-religious Christmas song:

"I'll be seeing my dad,
my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
they'll be drinking white wine in the sun"
full (lovely) lyrics: well-written and full of humor, assonance, internal rhyme, and poetry.  Critical of organized religion... but gets right to the heart of why you don't have to be religious to love Christmas.

White Wine in the Sun, by Tim Minchin

And I'll say, writing songs that pretty is the only way I can forgive his teased, mad-scientist/electroshock mullet.I think this song is an eloquent defense of an atheist's Christmas: not everybody subscribes to the various religions that have their eight crazy nights, etc., at the time of the Midwinter Festival (worst name I've heard so far), but this song is a lovely affirmation of the one thing shared by almost all the different holiday season celebrations: getting together with the family.

Now, coming from a religious family, the sacred part of Christmas is important to me: while I think "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" bumper stickers are tacky, and A Charlie Brown Christmas is preachy, it was still important for me to catch the Christmas Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral with Wifeoseyo, to hear their choir sing a bit of Handel's Messiah, and to stand outside, and check out the nativity scene in the bitter cold.  No pictures, because it was literally too cold for my camera to work, but the Nativity outside Myeongdong Cathedral doesn't put the baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas morning.

Folks, Korea's my home... but the time it feels least like home is during Christmas, when I'm far away from my family, and when Christmas is celebrated very differently.

Now, I recognize, as Bobster stated in the comments last time I bellyached about this, that I don't really have much right to complain, when I'm choosing to be here, and I don't really have a say in how Korea does Christmas... I've written before about the fact nobody owns a culture, and will expand on that soon, in response to a few comments I've had recently: Koreans are in the wrong to complain about Japanese Kimuchi or a Turkish family owning a Korean restaurant in Edmonton that makes more money than the Korean-owned one, but when the shoe's on the other foot, and Korean Christmas is about couples and ice cream cake instead of families and turkey, we are also wrong to get in a snit.

That's because there's the emotional issue of not feeling at home in this kind of christmas, and the logical issue of recognizing that it's not really my place to tell Korea how to celebrate Christmas.  But as homesickness goes, it's OK when the emotional issue doesn't jibe with the logical conclusion, because this is my Christmas, darnit!  So yeah, that's how I feel... and I'm glad people close to me understand and care how I feel, but I wouldn't write a letter to City Hall or the Chosun Ilbo telling all of Korea "You're doin' it wrong!" and if I did, I'd ripely deserve the middle finger and the "Yankee go home" I'd get in reply.

I raised this point because: for Christmas to feel like Christmas to me, I have to be more intentional than I had to back in Canada, because the elements that make me feel Christmassy are not the same elements that are emphasized in Korea's Christmas celebration.  In Canada, people get eggnog foisted upon them so often we're happy it'll be a year before we have to smell it again... but here in Korea, you have to head down to Itaewon to that place selling illegal goods smuggled off the army base just to taste it.  Same for turkey stuffing.  Meanwhile, silly hats and ice cream cakes and "Last Christmas" by Wham! and all its remakes are practically clogging the air and making it hard to walk in a straight line.

So here are the things that make ME feel like Christmas:
1. The sacred Christmas carols (The First Noel, Silent Night, Hark The Herald, O Come Immanuel, Joy to the World, for starters)
2. Handel's Messiah
3. Something religious - church, a carol sing, something.
4. Turkey Dinner.  With STUFFING.
5. (new addition:) Spiced Wine
6. Being around my favorite people, preferably in groups.
7. Phoning the family that's not immediately nearby
8. A Christmas Tree
9. Flashing Christmas lights
10. Presents
11. It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon)
12. Candles

And I've been working hard to try and check as many of those boxes as I could during this holiday seasons.  I'm happy to say I did.  No, I didn't have a huge Christmas dinner party like I did last year with my nemesis Dan Gray, but Wifeoseyo was wonderfully supportive this year in seeing to it that we touched on as many of those elements as we could, which was nice, seeing as we have to forge out a Christmas tradition of our own, now that we're married.  It was a fine first Christmas together.

I'll write a few posts this week about the varying degrees of success I had tracking down each of these things.



Breda said...

Glad to hear you had a good Christmas!

Anonymous said...

A tip for winter photgraphy: put the battery (or batteries) in your pocket (or hold them in your hand) for a while to warm them up before taking photos. Often, it's the cold batteries that cause the camera to stop working. This trick might help you get a quick shot or two before they freeze up again.

Anonymous said...

One more thing...
Do you have an oven? You can get one for a fairly reasonable price, although it will likely be too small for a mammoth turkey roast.

I really enjoyed the home made stuffing I made this year... even though we had only a pair of small chickens instead of turkey. I made HEAPS of the stuff (stuffing stuff, that is) and made balls of it which I cooked alongside the birds. They were wonderful -- crispy outside and moist in the middle. Mmmm...