Although this year is the third year in a row that I spend the holidays in Seoul, I’m still amazed at how different Christmas is here. I’m used to this season being all about family, getting together, getting cozy, relaxing, talking, eating, celebrating, all for days on end. In Korea, on the other hand, things couldn’t be more different. Here Christmas is all about love and friendship and much less about family. Small children usually get a present from their parents, (or they are told that it’s from Santa Claus, who Koreans call 산타 할아버지 Santa Halabeoji) but otherwise the exchanging gift part is reserved for couples or close friends. That also explains why many Christmas gifts in Korea have romantic undertones. In class the week before Christmas, all the students were busy asking each other if they had a date for Christmas eve. This season is seriously a bigger couples’ holiday than Valentine’s is in the West.
So, having spent my third Christmas in Korea did I miss anything? Definitely! I had a great time, but I miss not really being able to get in the Christmas mood despite all the lavishly decorated shops and the Christmas music playing non-stop at every store and restaurant. Wham’s “Last Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” are Korean favorites. I miss seeing a real Christmas tree on city hall square in stead of a 10 meter blue plastic cone with lights. I miss being with my family, although Skype made it easier to get through Christmas day. I miss traditional Danish Christmas food, which aside from the sweet glazed potatoes is impossible to come by in Korea. At one point a few months back, I was having dinner with my friend, and to my delight I discovered that one of the side dishes was sweet glazed potatoes. I immediately started rambling about how they were just like my grandmother used to make them, and he quickly insisted that I have all of them since they reminded me of home. Ah, but the crispy Danish pork roast, and Christmas style duck roast has yet to show up on my table in Korea. Finally, I miss Danish Christmas cookies and sweets. I’m not much of a sweet tooth but in the true “wanting what you can’t have” spirit I’ve been craving homemade Christmas cookies all December. I tried bying something that seemed like it, but it turned out to be a poor substitute.
Wonder if I can pursuade my mom to cook a Christmas dinner again in a few weeks, when I return to Denmark for a short winter break 🙂