This year somewhat feels like the year with out holidays. We were determined to make Christmas feel like Christmas. We were constantly listening to Christmas tunes (I was sure to not download any songs with "I'll be home for Christmas" in them). Yet it still didn't quite feel right. I guess part of it is because two days before Christmas we had a high of 50 degrees.
Christmas Eve was a bit colder. We still had to go to work. As I've said before, Christmas really isn't that big of a deal here. I guess we were lucky to get Christmas Day off.
I had organized a Secret Santa gift exchange at work. Everyone came in to work Christmas Eve and put their gifts in one of the classrooms. Once everyone arrived, we went in the room together and found our gifts. The Koreans must have been a bit confused because they stood there awkwardly holding their gifts, said "thank you" and started walking out of the room. I said, "No, open them!"
"Ahhhh, open them!"
After everything was opened, we stood there awkwardly again. Then finally one by one we filed out of the room.
A little while later I had gone to get some hot water to make some coffee. Rosella, the head teacher, came out to get me. She was pretending to cry. And it was very obvious that she was pretending to cry. I had no idea why she was so blatantly being ridiculous. She pulled me back into the teacher's room. Everyone was looking at me. Everyone was standing there.
All of a sudden the lights went out, and in came a birthday cake for me. They all started singing Happy Birthday. When it came time in the song they sang, "Happy Birthday, dear hammmmnnaahhhh.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!" It is a tradition in Korea that if it is your birthday, you are supposed to be the one to cut the cake. So they handed me a knife and I tried cutting it. It was a very soft cake with a hard cookie and hardened chocolate on top. It was impossible to cut. And everyone was watching!
We were supposed to work until 8:30 pm Christmas Eve. Our boss left early to go to Hong Kong for the weekend. After the last students left at 5:30, the head teacher told the foreigners we could go home, because Christmas is a bigger deal for us than them.
We made one last stop at the grocery store before heading home. I made my family's traditional shrimp meal for Christmas Eve (at home we usually have steak too, but beef is ridiculously expensive here). We watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which I watch with my family every Christmas Eve, and a few more Christmas movies before turning in for the night.
We were very thankful that our families and friends sent us such wonderful gifts for us to open on Christmas. We got a ton of good reading, because we can't find books in English here. And a bunch of food we have been craving. Andrew's mom sent me a few recipes, one including Polish Noodles. So Christmas night I went to the grocery store and bought a chicken. I boiled it, pulled the meat off, then made chicken dumpling soup. It was so delicious... I'll definitely be making many more Polish noodles in my future!
Andrew hard at work the day before Christmas Eve.
My birthday cake.
My birthday cake.
Christmas Eve... with the Christmas Tree at work.
Christmas Eve with our little tree and all of our gifts!
Our mess Christmas morning.
Our gifts, covering our bed! What a mess!