Christmas in Korea is nothing like Christmas back home.
It kind of feels like some Westerners came here and were like, ‘hey December 25 is important to us so it must important to you too,’ and the Koreans were like, ‘hey a day off for no reason!’
Kind of like how I feel about Buddha’s Birthday. And Labor Day.
They kept the pretty aspects–the lights, the Christmas trees, and even “산타 할아버지” (Santa Haraboji). But the whole Jesus thing is not actually a thing at all. There aren’t any nativities or midnight masses. I mean, there probably is somewhere, but not on the streets like home. People don’t all of the sudden become religious on Christmas Eve, or give food to people they never talk to, and tacky Jesus shaped lawn art doesn’t become socially acceptable.
Instead, Korea made it into another love holiday. Along with Valentine’s Day, White Day, Pepero Day, etc etc, Christmas is just another day you’re supposed to spend with a boyfriend/girlfriend and if you don’t well…
I asked my kids what they were doing–they were either a) going skiing in Gangwon or b) staying home and playing pone game. Both of those are better than school. It also means that for most schools, it is almost time for winter break. Most Korean public schools don’t have the three month summer vacation–but a month in the winter and a month in the summer.
So in a sense, Christmas still carries that magical quality that comes around my hometown every year–it’s just focused around romantic love and relaxation. It’s still a good time it’s just, different.
Lucky for me, Christmas fell on a Friday this year which meant…three day weekend!
I refused to make it into a sad time, and lucky for me no one else wanted to spend Christmas alone either. I spent Christmas Eve with friends eating chicken and giggling.
Christmas Day Silvia and I went to a…concert! Another concert. For another rookie group. Because those ones are the best (no, they aren’t seventeen years old. And no, there aren’t seventeen members. It’s complicated.)
We were second floor, but with only 800 people allowed in, it felt pretty intimate. We weren’t with the tumblr girls this time, but instead surrounded by the family of the actual group members. Watching Jun’s mom smile when this one super fan stood up screaming every 5 seconds was almost as entertaining as the concert.
I know it was his mom because a) it looked like him, b) rumor had it the family was there and c) there was photo proof later of them. What are the chances.
They were extremely strict about taking photos, to the point where in one of the concerts (there were 4) the whole thing had to be stopped and girls forcefully removed. It’s a a little sad in that there are very few fancams, but also a little happy because it means only those who were there…were there.
Overall, it was a good time that will never be forgotten.
The next day was that awards show I mentioned earlier. It’s essentially the MTV Music Awards of Korea and we really didn’t know what to expect. We bought floor tickets from a tumblrmaster on twitter and we met her in Seoul Station where she counted the cash and she just emanated power.
For weeks we looked up past shows and paused to analyze the above shots to get an idea of the layout. But the stage changed every year–so all we knew was that it was in a big room in Coex Mall.
The day of the SBS Gayos was full of ups and downs, as these things always are. Not quite as bad as the Hallyu debacle–but close. You’d think after years of doing it there’d be some kind of system but nope–still no one has any idea what’s going on.
We arrived in the morning and spent all day walking around and standing in lines so we could get in more lines. Eventually that line led into a festival where Silvia and I played the nametag ripping game in a ring like they do in the show Running Man to and the surrounding Koreans gasped at our…enthusiasm.
There was another point where we ended up in live quiz game about animals but the entire thing was in Korean so we were like…
We knew the word for chicken, and a nice high school girl helped us with the word “hole”. I happen to know a bit about chicken sexing, so we got the question right.
For lunch we had a KFC “chizza”. I don’t know if this is a thing in the States, but it’s all the rage here. Fried chicken topped with mozzarella, sauce + various toppings. I’d say it was just so-so.
And there was one point where I held an albino ferret.
We were at this festival for 10 hours doing the above activities and more, and we were constantly checking the 가요대전 hashtag for more information because 12 hours is a long time even if you’re tackling each other and holding wild animals.
In the morning the set list came out–
And then, with about 3 hours left, what we had been waiting for finally came. The stage layout.
Being VIP 5, we were a little disappointed. At least we weren’t in the stands, but there was still a section ahead of us. Ah well–that’s the risks we take. I mean, it’s still on the floor. And at least it’s not 6, or 7. And you can’t win every time right?
The next few hours there was a flurry on twitter of girls trying to trade seats.Mostly everyone wanted VIP 2 or 3. They were trading cash and perks and all sorts of knowledge for one of these seats. We were just relieved we knew where we were.
Only for it to be 8:00, and we go to line up thinking it should be about time, for there to be barely anyone in line for our section. Either we were extremely early, or extremely late. We should have just asked someone but we were busy holding ferrets and taking pictures of cardboard cutouts. As numbers 6 and 9, we figured they were seats so it didn’t really matter. But wait.
About 10 people game in the waiting area behind us all about numbers 50 or so and they saw our number and were like omo and went behind us. Wait. Was this not seated? Was this first come first serve? Had we been numbers 6 and 9 in line to choose seats?
Yes. Yes it had been. And we had long missed the line up. So whatever good seats we had were taken. This was the lowest part of the night. It’s hard when you have an advantage you didn’t even know about only to know you missed it. When you think about “what could have been.” But–you live and you learn.
But–things always work out for us. They just do. I don’t know why, but our seats/standing area are always the perfect position as if the world is conforming to our needs.
We walked in and were filed into a section, the 50s right next to us. And we were like wait. Is that…
That’s the stage. Of course it was. I’m not sure how it happened. We just were right there.
Turns out the map was entirely wrong. And there was once again a flurry of twitter girls trying to change their seats back.
If there was one thing I learned…don’t trust Twitter. It can be fun to look, but don’t make any decisions based on it.
So the show was great, at the end everyone rushed that fence and a poor security guard was holding back the wave of fangirls as Got7’s rapper ran down those stairs and threw chocolates at us and when Exo boys came over dancing to Psy’s newest song. Silvia was dancing too and when a certain one saw her he smiled and danced harder because that’s how we do our lives.
The show ended after the last subway and we realized we didn’t actually have a way to get home. So we laughed at the taxi guys trying to charge us $30 for a ride to Shinnohyeon station and instead found one around the corner and made him turn on the meter and we paid $5 instead. And we crashed at our friend in Gangnam’s house, who actually was at her friend’s house elsewhere watching the show on television.
The next morning I took a bus and a taxi to Suwon– back at my old campus and continuing the makjang.
While I may not have been home for Christmas, it was jolly enough to hold me through.