Tis the season. I went to a local market in Seoul and bought a small Christmas tree. Although my family is Catholic, we don’t really celebrate it. I can’t remember when I had an xmas tree at home last time. We don’t exchange gifts. (I think they gave me gifts until I become a teen.) In fact, in S. Korea, Christmas is more for couples and friends, rather than a family, or a religious day. To my family, it was just another day, or a good day-off. In some years, I even worked on Christmas day, as newspapers should be published the following day.
So, Christmas wasn’t a big thing to me. Until I spent the season in San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala, in 2009. I was traveling the country during the winter vacation. And in Guatemala, Christmas is a huge thing. Tons of fireworks, or bombas, were shot up to the sky even during the daytime. The family gathers, and goes to church (The biggest church in town was packed and some people had to attend the Mass outside the church.), and around the midnight, fireworks reaches the peak. As every town around the lake does the firework, it’s quite something to see the blistering colors reflected to the lake.
I was standing near the lake, looking up the sky, enjoying the atmosphere. It was beautiful but at the same time I missed home, my family and my friends, looking at the people around me. Besides me, everyone else was with family and friends. All the kids of the family living next to my homestay house were also around the lake, shooting up their own fireworks. When it hit 12, everyone hugged each other.
Then, a teenage boy walked to me, and gave me a hug. “¡Feliz Navidad!” He turned to his family and shrugged off to them who had been watching me curiously. Then, everyone of them came to me for the Christmas hug. Some very young, shy kids barely hugged me and ran away to hide behind their parents. Cuties. My heart was full of warmth, and my eyes welled up.
Gracias por el gran regalo de Navidad!