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January 09, 2012

the war on christmas: civil war...

In my second Expat Christmas I have learned something that I didn't fully realize in my first year. Last year, I wrote about Christmas as a niche product and something that Koreans embrace the materialistic qualities of. I can seek out Santa (who I found this year, in the form of a parking lot attendant at an expensive apartment tower) all I want, but unless I make an effort to bring the holiday spirit into my own household, any search for Christmas will prove futile. Korea doesn't care if I celebrate Christmas or not, and the War on Christmas doesn’t really exist on any front besides the one that I create.

In North America you can easily celebrate almost any 'western' holiday with great ease. The constant barrage of Christmas even the laziest people are spurred into action at some point. Being surrounded by the holiday in all its often annoying glory will eventually bring the majority of souls on the band wagon. However, the situation changes when you leave that sphere of influence.

Again, I don’t know why I write that as some sort of light bulb moment. When I arrived in Korea two years ago I was aware that I was leaving western culture, and therefore leaving most of the pomp that goes with it (please nod your head those of you who agree). I believe that much like my sheltered experience of culture shock (which I know that I wrote about, but can't find the article, help?) that my first year in Korea gave me a distorted perception of this thought.

Let me explain, last year I unknowingly created a small version of Christmas for myself. I awoke beside a person that I loved; we exchanged presents, and even opened ones sent to us from abroad. All while sitting under blinking Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music, and drinking imported German beer (for those who judge it’s a family tradition to drink while opening presents). It was a micro level Christmas, but held true to most of the values and spirits I’d grown accustomed to, just with a change of continent.

This year was almost the complete opposite. I woke up alone, with no presents and without any music present from my Mother’s impressive Christmas music collection. I’m not seeking pity, these are simply stated facts. I did sweet fuck all to reproduce the Christmas feeling in my house. For example, at one point I did entertain the idea of dressing up my mannequin legs with Christmas lights, but the only string of lights I own burned out. Basically, the situation I was in couldn’t have been more different, Christmas morning was just another Sunday.

If you want to celebrate a tradition that holds any importance to you as a foreigner it is something that you need to work towards. Living abroad has allowed me to fully experience and embrace a foreign culture, and become involved with ideals and beliefs that do exist in Canada, but go mostly unnoticed because I'm not aware they are being fought for. A good friend of mine put together a thanksgiving dinner, and put in a lot of effort in doing so. His exuberant efforts, and any headaches he acquired in the process was above the usual requirements in the N/A. In that (extra) effort he was able to compile an approximation of Thanksgiving.

The conclusion is pretty simple, and rather anticlimactic. It’s more of a call to order, Holidays abroad require more active participation; there is no sleigh to pull you through. That is if you actually even want to celebrate Christmas, if you’re not into celebrations it’s easy to avoid the yuletide commotion.

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