Christmas in the Far East has been hugely different to Christmas in England. You would never have known it was Christmas except for a few Christmas lights and decorations dotted sporadically around certain cities and department stores. Regardless of this, we were determined to enjoy it and make the most of it. We knew it would never be the same as England – so we didn’t try to emulate an English Christmas as it would only disappoint. We spent it with friends and enjoyed each others company. Our friend Ryan who we stayed with has an 11th floor flat located right in the heart of Incheon, which is a city next to Seoul of 4 million people or so. Think Wolverhampton to Birmingham, and that’s pretty much what Incheon is to Seoul, but on a much bigger scale and without the horrible accents!
In true festive spirit, we generally ‘pigged out’ as much as we could on junk food throughout the day and justified it by telling ourselves it was Christmas after all and we should enjoy it – even if it didn’t feel like it at all. Ryans apartment felt relatively ‘Christmassy’, with wrapping paper, chocolate, a few presents and Christmas lights, in addition to the 7 westerners all cramped together enjoying the Christmas spirit. This is where we stayed for the majority of the day. We ventured into the freezing streets below (-20°C) for lunch/dinner. It was so bitterly cold, but there was no snow. The streets were heaving with people, just like any other day – people were shopping, hiking, eating out, you would never have known it was Christmas Day. Most people supposedly celebrate Christmas in Korea – just obviously not in the same way we do! We headed to an American style restaurant. I ate Beef and Chicken Fajitas (very festive!) I think the others ordered steak (Amelia – a rack of ribs). There was no turkey, but the Fajitas tasted bloody good and we all enjoyed our food.
After dinner we headed back up to Ryan’s apartment feeling incredibly bloated (I managed to spend 9 pounds on Starbucks Hot Chocolates – just for myself!) and we went about relaxing, chatting and enjoying the evening. We all spoke to our families – thank goodness for Skype – what a wonderful creation that is. Unfortunately my parents computer is absolutely awful (you need to buy a new one!) and the signal was far from perfect, but we all got to wish each other a ‘Merry Christmas’ and at least we were all able to speak to each other – albeit briefly! It was very amusing listening to the different accents of everyones parents and families. The North Americans delighted in our British accents, particularly Nana, Auntie Sharon and Grandpa – “We had an empire once you know” – that was brilliant Grandpa. Their response to me – “So that’s where you get it from then“. haha. When Ryan and his sister Skyped their 70 something year old grandmother she considered it appropriate to tell us in her Deep South accent that she was “naked and had just got out the shower“. If I re-call correctly she told us this before she had even wished us all a Happy Christmas! Quite a character by all accounts. His father introduced us to all 5 of his cat’s and they wished us a Merry Christmas.
Ryan’s 17 year old sister from Oklahoma flew in especially to see him Christmas Eve, which was pretty nice. She brought us American style treats that went down well. Nothing will ever compare to Cadbury’s chocolate though. Not that I’m ungrateful or anything of course…!
By the time we’d finished Skyping, it had gone midnight and we were ready for bed. I insisted we watch Love Actually (as Ryan and his sister had never seen it – standard uncultured Americans!). As it turned out, everybody was asleep within the first half hour. Nevermind, I’m sure they’ll have opportunities to watch it again in the future.
Boxing Day consisted of an early afternoon breakfast, hanging out and a 4 hour journey back to Hwacheon. Monday morning at 8:30am, back to work – deskwarming. No classes until March, but we still have to be in school regardless. I refuse to make any further comment.
The one big downside to being out here is you miss out on events and memories at home. It was also my Dads 50th birthday on Christmas Day, I missed it and although obviously nobody minds and they understand why I did, it would have still been nice to be there nonetheless. Mother and father are coming to visit at the begininng of May – maybe I can splurge a little and treat my father to a belated 50th Birthday pint of Cass. Lucky him hey?! Who knows. Either way I really cannot wait for them to come out here and visit.
Although I missed home, I wasn’t as sad as I thought I would be, and we had a really good day as you have probably noticed. It was different, but in a good way. We can now say that we have spent a Christmas in Asia. Fingers crossed we’ll have plenty of Christmasses’ to enjoy at home, so one or two Christmasses away hopefully shouldn’t do too much harm.
Lots of love to you all at home.