Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Christmas 2009 (December '09 Webzine blog)

On 16th December I boarded a flight from Incheon airport. Some 15 hours later I stepped off the plane and onto English soil. It was almost a year since I had last visited my home country and, after some worries about finances, my wife and I decided we could afford to go again. Christmas is of course a very special time in England and the traditional time of year for families and relatives to come together. For families like mine without young children and whose members are dispersed all over England (and Korea in my case!) it is probably the only time of year we will all be in the same place. Friends from my home town also come back for Christmas and the New Year, and so it is a great opportunity for me to meet all my family and old friends in a short period of time.

The first week of my trip was unusually cold – below zero for several days and with heavy snow fall in some places. One of my friends was without electricity for a few days because the snow had damaged power lines. Around this time of year English people get very excited about whether there will be a 'white Christmas' – snowfall on Christmas day. There's a very famous song, “I'm dreaming of a white Christmas”, sung by Bill Crosby and each year bookmakers take millions of pounds worth of bets on the question. This year looked a good chance for a white Christmas with the unusually cold weather (the last was in 2004) but unfortunately it didn't happen in our home town (though it did in other places).

On Christmas day many families have their own traditional way of spending the day. Christians will often go to a service through the night of Christmas Eve (a 'midnight mass'), or one on Christmas morning. Carol services are very popular, and carol singers go from door to door, although this seems to be dying out. My family usually takes a long walk together after Christmas lunch across the muddy fields nearby our house. We always meet several other families while we are out so that is obviously a popular tradition too. I can guess why – the traditional Christmas lunch is so filling that a walk may be the only way to stop your stomach exploding! The lunch consists of roast turkey, stuffing (a mixture of suet, breadcrumbs and herbs), roast potatoes, winter vegetables (carrots, parsnips and brussell sprouts) and gravy (made from the juices which run off the cooking turkey); followed by a dessert of Christmas pudding (a rich fruit cake soaked in brandy) with brandy-butter. Unsurprisingly people usually put on a few kilogrammes over the Christmas holidays, and the New Year comes just in time to make a resolution to lose weight.

It's amazing how quickly I have got back into the rhythm of my old life in England. After sleeping a few nights in my old room at my parents' house it feels almost as if I never left. Still, the meetings with my friends and family are tinged with sadness as I know I haven't got long to spend with them. It's strange – while I was in Korea I didn't miss them that much, but now I am with them it is heart-wrenching to have to leave again. Maybe if I stayed in England long enough I might start to develop cravings for kimchi, but for now I wish I could stay just a little longer.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

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