Christmas in Korea is strange. I mean, I understand that it isn't really their tradition and that through American movies and Western idea brainwashing, they have begun to incorporate our holidays into their culture in their own fashion. There are similarities. Department stores put up beautiful Christmas tree displays. Some of them are truly fabulous. Even our little podunk town has strung Christmas lights on the shivering naked trees that line the street to the subway station.
The differences however are stark. For instance, the biggest difference is how they spend Christmas. They go on dates. It's kind of like Valentines, in that if you don't have a loved one, you feel left out. I don't know how this tradition started, but kids are left behind, and couples go out on a romantic outing.
Another difference is the gift giving. I don't really think they give many gifts at Christmas. This week, we have been practicing the question "What do you want for Christmas?" These are the answers:
to make a snowman
my mom (her mom is very busy and she never sees her)
There is only one kid who has his exact toy picked out. Jude, he's secretly my favorite, although, he also is extremely hyperactive. I just really like his enthusiasm. Even when he is acting out, it is because he is just so enthusiastic about life! His wish is for a remote controlled toy tank. That a boy.
And they don't do Christmas trees in the homes. They see them around stores and in the movies so they know what they are, but the majority of them have never decorated a tree in their lives. So I have made it my goal before I left to make sure they got the full experience of decorating a tree. There was only one problem. The preschool didn't provide us with a Christmas tree. Not to fear, arts and crafts are here.
Only half of the class showed up on the day (Fridays are more of fun days so some moms had taken their kids skiing) we made the tree. The kids drew their little hands on green construction paper and cut them out. But because only half of them were there, they ended up having to do twice the work, meaning they had to draw and cut at least ten hands a piece. They were exhausted by the end of it. Literally, I had to give them a nap. But after layering their hands into the shape of a Christmas tree, they were ecstatic. Absolutely thrilled. And so was I. In the end, the sweat and toil was worth it.
The next step was to make snowflakes. They weren't so great at this, but some of the snowflakes really turned out beautifully. Mostly the ones the parents helped with. They had snowflake homework after I realized that thirty minutes of snowflake cutting training would not be enough to create 6 year old masterpieces. Their homework was to take home paper and teach their parents how to cut snowflakes so they could do it together. They brought back some of their parents and sibling's snowflakes as well.
Next... making fake presents. Wrapping pieces of construction paper with real wrapping paper and ribbon was a task, but they turned out pretty good. I even let loose, and gave the kids control over to where they put their own present, under the tree.
The last step was making ornaments to actually decorate the tree with. I printed out photos for each child to put in their locket like ornaments. The outside, they decorated how they wished and on the inside flap, they put their picture for all to see when opened.