There are a few differences between the way Americans and Koreans celebrate Christmas: In Korea, Christmas is known more as a couples’ holiday, rather than a family holiday. Luckily for me, my boyfriend, Chris, would be visiting me for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so we decided to celebrate Christmas together the way that Koreans do: by eating cake, going out to an expensive western restaurant, and getting in lots of couple time.
On the night of Chris’ arrival, I wanted to surprise him with a belated birthday/college graduation cheesecake (his favorite), so on Christmas Eve, I bought a Christmas-themed cheesecake for him at a bakery down the street from my house. Before I even got to the bakery, I noticed many Koreans walking down the street holding cake boxes, which then reminded me of something a fellow foreigner friend told me a couple months ago when I asked her about Christmas in Korea: “Koreans eat cake on Christmas Day.” Apparently, eating cake is one of the traditions that couples do together on Christmas. Perfect!
After Chris and I woke up on Christmas Day, I made us a big breakfast, and then we opened our gifts from each other. Chris’ big present to me was coming to visit me for the third time this year, and my big present to him is a trip to Thailand, but we still wanted to give each other something small to open on Christmas Day. Like always, Chris ended up spoiling me: My stocking stuffers consisted of my favorite candies, pita chips, a yoga block (which I needed), and a gorgeous scarf; for my main present, he gave me a cooling pad for my laptop (which I also needed) and he wrote me a poem! Chris has given me a lot of amazing gifts in the 10 months we’ve known each other, but the poem is by far my favorite one: it’s something money can’t buy, he knows I love poetry, and he had to step out of his computer-nerd box to write it. I was so touched by this particular gift, I cried when I read it.
Later on in the evening, Chris and I got dressed up and took the bus into Seoul. Our first stop was Outback Steakhouse for dinner. I know Outback Steakhouse doesn’t seem like the nicest restaurant to go to on Christmas, but that restaurant is actually a big deal here in Korea: It’s known as a popular date place because it’s so expensive.
After our delicious dinner, Chris and I took the metro over to Myeongdong: a huge shopping district rumored to have some awesome Christmas light displays. Once Chris and I got there, we wandered around with hot chocolates and Peppermint Mochas in hand trying to find the so-called displays. We didn’t end up finding anything spectacular, but we did find a few areas where we were able to take some cute pictures.
My first Christmas away from home was absolutely amazing, and I have Chris to thank for that; before I could even make the request of him, he had already decided he was going to do everything in his power to come be with me for our first Christmas and New Years’s Eve, and he made it happen. Our first Christmas together was so perfect: the gifts, the dinner, the romantic walk around Seoul, etc. But even without all of that, it still would have been the best Christmas ever; we could have sat in my apartment and watched paint dry, but it still would have been wonderful, because we would be together.
I couldn’t be more thankful that Chris came to visit me for Christmas, and I couldn’t be more thankful for him.