Christmas Without Christmas

Let’s go ahead and say this Christmas has been a little more… hectic than usual.

That’s kind-of a given when you’re up at 5:30 in the morning, on the bus to Osaka an hour later; get caught in terrible rush hour traffic that puts you behind an extra 35 minutes, forcing you to sprint to the other side of Osaka’s largest train station to catch, in the last two minutes, the final train that would get you to the airport for check-in time; and finally, getting to the airport and having your bags overweight (probably the only reason the ladies at the gate let me on in the end was because of the way I’d opened up my suitcase and proceeded to try to squeeze into half the clothes I’d brought with me—you know you’ve reached new lows when…). And all this on four hours of sleep.

Photo on 2015-12-25 at 2.12 PM #2

It’s not Christmas. It’s not sitting by the fireside Christmas Eve, watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time before going to bed. That’s what my family’s probably doing right about now in their timezone, while my plane begins its descent towards Korea. Tomorrow there’ll be the usual roundabout of presents, food, and alcohol happening at just about every moment of the day. By the morning Mom will have stuffed my brothers’ stockings fit to bursting (we still do Santa Claus, probably more for my Mom than for any of us), and mine will hang empty over the fireplace. Later there’ll be more family, meat pies, and stories the stories we all collected over 2015 to share over the dinner table.

And it’s strange. Not with any profound meaning behind that strangeness; just odd or offputting in a vague, uncertain way. Decentering. It’s Christmas, but it was 14 degrees in Osaka as I stepped on the plane under a grand blue sky, fall leaves still lining the streets. It’s Christmas, and yet all around me I’m listening to Japanese, Korean, or Mandarin (and I double checked: I’m definitely the only non-East Asian person on this rather-large flight). When Christmas lunch is a burger king whopper meal you never finish because you’re too embarrassed to eat it on the subway, and when Christmas dinner is skipped all together in favor for shoju shots at a knockoff Irish bar that is playing a house remix of Silent Night. Hello Christmas 2015.

But then there’s meeting an old friend in Vancouver, and finding family doesn’t always just exist within context of fires, stuffed stockings, or genetics. And having the dazzling lights of Seoul: sometimes there’s a good reason to miss a Christmas, here or there. I still got to see that awe-striking Christmas moon all of you are going to see in the next six hours or so. And as we finally stumble home at the end of the first Christmas spent in a bar, it begins to snow on the neon-bathed streets of Seoul. The electricity in the air, the snow falling like the world’s held its breath, all while the streetlamps glow down the canal. That’s about as close as we’re going to get to Christmas over here for this Winnipeger. So merry something or other then.

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