plantChristmas in Korea is not a big deal.  It’s considered a kind of second Valentines Day, an excuse for couples to buy each other underwear and for single people to bemoan the lack of occasion for showing off their new underwear.

I clung to my ingrained cultural perspective in the week prior to the not-so-big day: in my classroom listening to classic Christmas songs was compulsory and the making of paper chains enforced.   I wrote the word ‘Jingle’ 96 times on separate pieces of coloured paper.  I sang along to ‘All I Want For Christmas.’  I spent several days making Christmas Bingo cards and bought chocolate and tangerines to throw at students if they won.  All in all, it was a good week.

Tuesday itself was calm and quiet.  I opened a Christmas bag of biscuits, socks and cards from four of the sweetest students ever to have shouted ‘teacher – finishee!’ at me, and the ‘IQ84’ novels by Haruki Murakami which absorbed me completely.  I read a lot, walked a little and ate food.  It was pleasant and relaxing, and actually devoid of the homesick pangs I’d thought might surge in.

Yet still, it felt a little special somehow – more than any of the other public holidays so far – and I wondered why.  Was it just an inbuilt memory of excitement derived from 24 years of such importance being placed on this particular day?  Perhaps a programmed emotional behaviour pattern, a fictional fizz self-created by drawing on memories of Christmas past?  Or am I somehow connected to the consciousness of those who were celebrating the day in the way that I’m used to?   I mused on this as I ate a very un-traditional tofu dinner.  It was perhaps the most peaceful Christmas day I have ever had.