My mom is sending me a mini Christmas tree, my dad sent presents and food, and I bought a Santa hat recently. Although I live in Japan, where Christmas is more of a romantic date night than anything, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
When I was in Kyoto as a student, I spent Christmas with my Japanese friends doing the typical Japanese style Christmas. We ate Kentucky Fried Chicken and went to karaoke and had a nabe party afterwards. I even tried to make brownies from the box of brownie mix my parents sent, but with the tiny Japanese microwave and it’s “oven setting” things didn’t go so well. The year after that, I spent it with my family and had a great time catching up on all the things my childhood Christmases had: family dinners, lots of presents, carols, cookie making, etc.
Last year, I went to work and told my students that if I were back home in America, I would have the day, or week, off, making them insanely jealous. But I went to a concert on Christmas Eve and a taiko performance with a fellow JET on Christmas Day. A few days after that, another friend and I were flying to Hong Kong to shop and stuff ourselves full of congee and dim sum for New Year’s.
This year I am going to South Korea and I was promised a White Christmas, as it’s been snowing there for quite a few weeks now. It’s a good 20 or so degrees colder than where I live in Japan, but the snow and being off work will certainly get me in the Christmas spirit. I have been watching some of my favorite movies like Elf and Home Alone, and I have been eating all the unhealthy food I want (I’m convinced my body is getting ready to hibernate and needs to store fat.)
I finished my most recent graduate school course, which means I get three weeks of no homework until the next one starts. A true vacation. I ended up scheduling days at the office for Christmas. Otherwise, if it had fallen on a school day, I wouldn’t have been able to take my paid vacation.
The Christmas lights in Fukuoka are gorgeous and during my down time at school or when I am grading a huge stack of tests or papers, I put on Christmas carols and tune out the mundane sounds of the teacher’s office. Christmas truly is the best time of year. I get to drink hot chocolate, see dazzling lights, write Christmas cards, and soon I will be with the one I love for a romantic and relaxing two weeks in South Korea.
I think last year I was more depressed about the whole affair because in my mind, I was away from my family and friends and Japan, while it does love to pretend it loves Christmas, is less magical than my hometown during the winter holidays. This year, I am going to be starting new traditions, meeting new people, and seeing those I love. Skype really does wonders around this time of year.
I’ve been reading expat blog posts about Christmas lately and it seems like most of them have one thing in common: if you are the type to get depressed about not being “home for the holidays” then you should start your own traditions, make the most of what you do have, and try to salvage your old traditions (such as watching movies or putting up a tree). Don’t let the winter blues get you down. Spend time with awesome people and have a Merry Christmas!
I am working on finishing three more books in order to complete my 30 books in a year challenge. I can taste the sweetness of victory on my tongue! I am also studying Korean every night. I can’t wait for a fresh start in 2015! I wish good things to all of you in the New Year!