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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas in Korea

December is normally my favorite month -- the start of truly cold weather, the first snow (sometimes), the return of Starbucks' Gingerbread Latte and, of course, the Christmas season. Music, lights, shopping, tinsel, movies, smells -- I like it all.

So Christmas in Korea was definitely a change from a normal Washington Christmas. Some stores had lights up, especially in the touristy areas, but that was the exception, not the rule. There was no Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks -- or peppermint mocha. The horror. And almost no Christmas music was playing in stores. I certainly never thought it was possible to miss the ├╝ber-cheesiness of "Christmas Eve in Washington," but somehow I did.

(The Salvation Army was out in force at many subway stations collecting change but the bell-ringers were bored high-schoolers looking like they were doing forced community service.)

Christmas Eve was spent lazing around all day, watching Christmas movies and generally enjoying having a day off work. That evening, I went to church and stayed with some friends at the beautiful JW Marriot Hotel downtown. We decided it would be more fun to be together Christmas morning rather than waking up alone and wanted to give ourselves a holiday treat.

Obviously we acted like 5-year-olds let loose and stayed up most of the night eating cookies, watching TV and jumping on the bed:

Great view from the hotel room window on Christmas morning:

That's Seoul Tower right across the river, with the mountains in the background. Our hotel was on the south side of the Han.

Santa came!

In the morning, we ordered room service and opened presents before attending Christmas service. It's always nice having a vicar who jokes about adding a bar to the church -- espcially when you know he's kind of not joking...

Rachel's favorite part of Christmas was clearly breakfast -- she even ignored room service in favor of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

A member of the congregation had heard that my friends and I didn't have anywhere to go for Christmas dinner and pulled some strings to get us into a big Western turkey dinner -- yum yum! Not nearly as good as a home-cooked meal but maybe the closest you could come in Seoul. (and no mashed potatoes -- what is it with these people?!)

The hotel had an amazing gingerbread village set up in the lobby:

I feel extraordinarily lucky to have a fantastic group of friends here as to not be alone on Christmas. But at the same time, it's certainly not the same as being home and I know for sure, not matter what ends up happening after this year, that I will be home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas 2009. I've missed too many already -- and more than anything, I just want some good mashed potatoes!


  1. Aw, that was very sweet for that person to get you guys into having the Western dinner. I think that is beyond warm and kind.
    It is so nice to have things to look forward to and in your case, family, friends and wonderful holidays back home! How nice. Merry Christmas and have a fantastic New Year. I am excited to read about your advenures on New Years eve.

  2. Wish I could be there with you! Sounds like a blast!