Now that we are the middle of December I would like to take the opportunity to let you know what celebrating the holiday season is like when many of you are thousands of miles away from friends and family. Although being away from loved ones can be tough, there are still many ways to embrace the holiday spirit while teaching in Korea. It's up to the individual to make the most of it. It's all about getting out there, planning ahead and putting in a little effort to create the kind of holiday season you want. In this blog I will talk about ways that not only the country of Korea celebrates the holiday season, but also how I celebrate it with my friends in Korea, and family back home in South Africa.
A city like Seoul is constantly buzzing with things to do during the holiday season. Currently, there is the French Christmas Market, the Nutcracker on Ice, the Lotte World Christmas Tree, the Sincheon Christmas Market, and the lunch specials throughout Itaewon and Noksapyeong district. Everything from eggnog, turkey and pumpkin pie can be consumed.
It is possible to escape the holiday blues while living and teaching in Korea if you get involved at school, spend time with your new found friends abroad, and plan online events with your family back home.
Celebrating the Holidays at ChungDahm
Christmas this year is going to be fun at our Chungdahm Learning academy, as we are busy planning a Secret Santa Event. A group of instructors have volunteered to help management host a Secret Santa event on Friday the 22nd, before Christmas weekend.
Our event is going to be a Secret Santa Potluck where all instructors will have the choice to bring some holiday themed lunch foods and drinks. There will also we be a hot chocolate station and some fun team building games. Instructors are expected to wear their favorite festive outfits and this week we assigned everyone a Secret Santa for the value of 20,000W via the Drawnames app. Instructors could write down a wishlist of what they would like such as K-pop albums, heat tech socks or Starbucks gift cards.
The group of instructors who volunteered to manage with the Secret Santa event will also help decorate the academy. Songpa Branch has Christmas decorations so we will be putting up the Christmas tree and lights at the entrance of the academy and on the day of our event, we will move the tree and lights into our seminar room. Also, one of the Secret Santa Team members will also be compiling a Christmas music play list for the event.
Celebrating the Holidays with Friends in Korea
Celebrating the holidays in Korea is all about spending the day with close friends you have made abroad, whether they are from Australia or the United States. Every person brings a little bit of their culture to the event. Since all foreigners feel the same sense of nostalgia during the holiday season, we tend to cling closely together during this time of year to make it as similar to back home as possible.
In my experience abroad group of friends tend to book a Christmas Day lunch, or coordinate Christmas potlucks and parties at their homes. Gifts are brought, good booze is shared and happy memories are made. The holiday season is not all doom and gloom without your family, and if you feel sad, I recommend coordinating fun events like this to pick up your spirits.
There is also a ton of things to do with your Korea friends, like go watch the Nutcracker at Lotte World, ice-skate at Olympic Park or go visit Santa's Village in Herb Garden in Gapyeong. Even simpler things like watching your favorite holiday movies, or singing Christmas Carols at a Noraebang are all ways you can embrace the holiday season.
Celebrating with Family and Friends back Home
As someone who comes from a big family that lives in South Africa, the USA and Ireland, I understand how difficult things can be during this time of year. It can be super complicated to celebrate the holidays while living abroad, however, it can be done.
Every year I buy unique gifts that can only be found in Korea and make sure to ship them by the beginning of December to my family members. Then on Christmas Day we host one big family Skype where all the relatives across the world, can come together at the same time and enjoy opening their gifts. We also usually insist that we are all drinking a glass of something, and try our best to be merry!
This year, a great idea we had to save costs was to host a Family Secret Santa. It was a creative idea to enjoy the holidays in a new way, yet still be able to be celebrate with everyone around the world.
There are also plenty of Christmas e-cards sent on Christmas Day and texts messages, snap chats and voice notes. It is still very possible to share the holidays with your loved ones far away just as much as your friends nearby.
It is tough being far away from the ones you love, but remember the holidays is what you make of it. Take the opportunity to make a new family abroad and make plans to enjoy the day exactly the way you wish too.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!