Christmas Without Christmas

Holiday displays are few and far between around here, so I was surprised and delighted to stumble upon Jeju’s symbolic stone grandfathers dressed up like Santa.

First of all, I just want to say, “Wow!” I can’t believe it’s been six months since my last post.

I’ve started several posts over the past several months, but I haven’t had the time (ahem, focus) to finish them. Today, though, I started writing and was actually compelled to follow through, and here’s what I wanted to share:

Yesterday, I was walking through Emart, which is basically the Target of Korea, looking for gifts to take to the local orphanage. (A bunch of us expats are hosting a party for the kids on Christmas Eve morning.) Although the purpose of my visit was steeped in holiday spirit, I still had to remind myself it was Christmastime.

In the store, there were no holiday decorations. No last-minute stocking stuffer displays. No holiday music. Not a single roll of holiday wrapping paper. Not even a red bow. Nothing. I had to settle for a gift bag with “I love you” written all over it simply because it was red.

As I rolled my cart down the aisle, something else struck me. It wasn’t a madhouse! On the contrary, it was quiet. Strolling through the peaceful store, I imagined the chaos I’d be enduring if I were shopping back home, and a wave of relief and disappointment washed over me.

In the two years and two Christmases I’ve spent away from the States, I’ve realized that I have mixed emotions about my country’s approach to the holiday.

I don’t miss the buying frenzy Americans are conditioned to create. I don’t miss the cranky crowds. I don’t miss spending too much money. I don’t miss the stress. But I do miss the streets lined with festive lights, the Christmas songs playing everywhere you go, the smell of Christmas trees, the holiday parties. I really, really miss my family and friends.

So in an attempt to instill a little holiday spirit in my life, I’ve been listening to Christmas music nonstop. And it works … except when Bing Crosby shuffles onto my iPod and croons, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Here, in this sleepy seaside village in Korea, it looks nothing like Christmas, and it makes me a little sad.

Still, the true spirit of the holiday isn’t about lights or music or ribbons and bows. In fact, without these distractions, it’s easier to remember what Christmas really means to me. It’s about goodwill. It’s about generosity. It’s about gratitude.

Goodwill. Generosity. Gratitude. I’ll finish this long overdue post with those three things in mind. When I feel myself missing the holidays at home, I will stop and remember why I’m thankful to be here. I’ll ask myself how I can be more generous. I’ll do my best to spread goodwill. And I will enjoy this experience for what it is, the way it is.

I wish the same to you.



4 thoughts on “Christmas Without Christmas

  1. Christmas is what’s in your heart and you can celebrate it wherever you are. It sounds like you are doing just that. We will miss you this Christmas, but you will be in our hearts, so you won’t be celebrating alone..

  2. “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.” – Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

  3. Pingback: Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse | Untitled Adventure

  4. Pingback: Merry Christmas from a Muslim Country | Untitled Adventure

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