- BLACK FRIDAY
For most families I know, “Christmas” actually starts the day after Thanksgiving, at the end of November. We call this “Black Friday”. After getting fat eating turkey and bread stuffing, everyone wakes up early Friday morning to do the first shopping of the season. Actually, Christmas shopping is a TERROR. People get trampled fighting over the latest video game, and I usually feel like ripping all my hair out while I wait in line for hours. AHH! Still, there’s an exhaustingly festive and fun atmosphere as we hear the first Christmas carols of the season and take in the amazing displays of lights and decorations.
- A FEW WEEKS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
This is where the real fun happens – in the preparation! The family struggles to get a Christmas tree, alive or fake, into the house, and usually we have to spend a whole day rearranging the furniture to make enough room for it. One by one we add ornaments and trinkets to the tree for decoration, reminiscing about where each one came from or who gave it to the family (Christmas ornaments are often presents or family heirlooms). We throw far too much tinsel (sparkly ribbons) on the tree, while the cat and dog eat the pieces we drop and later vomit it onto the carpet. (Mom loves that.) We “hang the stockings by the chimneys with care”, just like in the songs, and write out the last of the Christmas cards to send to everyone we ever met.
Meanwhile, outside, Dad (and all the other dads in the neighborhood) would be busy decorating the house with far too many lights. In many neighborhoods Christmas lights are not just about decoration; they’re about competition, about who can make their house look the absolutely most ridiculous and cause the most drivers to stop and gawk at the ridiculousness.
Around this time we’re really in the spirit, crooning to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” and Bing Crosby’s “Chestnuts on an Open Fire” whenever they come on the radio. All the popular TV shows do their touching Christmas episodes, and we even look forward to seeing our favorites Christmas commercials, the same famous ones we see every year. Everyone attends tons of school and work and family Christmas parties, drinking far too much cider and rum and making enough funny stories to last until the next Christmas.
- CHRISTMAS EVE
Oops… tomorrow is Christmas? We spend a lot of time with family on this day, but usually my brother and I are forced to mix in all the shopping we forgot to do. Crazy last minute trips to the shopping mall are followed by hasty wrapping of presents. Mom finishes baking cookies to take to grandma’s tomorrow, but we slow her down by eating a lot of them as soon as they’re finished. We all watch some famous Christmas specials on TV and drink hot chocolate or egg nog (an egg drink that is sometimes alcoholic and almost always disgusting, but everyone drinks it anyway).
When I was very young, we couldn’t sleep on this night. I would lay awake thinking about Santa Claus or what toy I might get as a present the next day, or if it would be snowing. Eventually I would drift off, dreaming about everything Christmas…
All the kids wake up bright and early and eagerly rip open presents. We root through the trinkets inside our stockings and make fun of how terrible my brother is at wrapping presents. Merry Christmas everyone!
After a visit to church (it is Christmas, after all), it’s off to grandma’s house for most of us, where we have a grand feast and exchange more presents with the aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even setting the table and washing the dishes become highly anticipated social events. By the time we go home everyone is full and happy and carrying armloads of presents. And in the meantime, the cat has destroyed my mom’s entire house, shredding wrapping paper everywhere and carrying smaller presents to every room.
- THE AFTERMATH
As one of my foreign friends once said, “Christmas makes an awfully big mess.” The next day is spent cleaning up the house, recycling what seems like nine tons of wrapping paper and packaging, and, most importantly, cleaning out the STORES. Everyone goes to the shopping malls again to take advantage of after Christmas sales. Mom buys something like 87 rolls of wrapping paper to store away for next year, and I use all the gift certificates I received to buy stuff I probably didn’t need anyway (but really wanted!). A Christmas well spent!
Of course, not everyone’s Christmas is like this. But this is the course of events that I always remember and miss when I’m away from home. The Christmas spirit is starting to stir up in Korea this month, too, so here’s hoping you also “have yourself a merry little Christmas now!”
Caption for these articles:
"Some typical Western Christmas-themed ornaments, ready for a tree-decorating session..."
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