I haven't really felt Christmassy in years. Let's see if Mr. Johnny Cash can do it for you.
When I was younger I would go through stages of excitement which steadily rose to a crescendo on Christmas Eve and went through the roof on the day itself. Christmas Day was a routine of pure joy - wake up as early as possible (usually by my sister, Lindsay, who loved Christmas even more than I did) and go into my parents' room to open our stockings which would always be stuffed with chocolate Santas, chocolate coins and our little gifts (there were always dozens of varying sizes, we were spoiled rotten at Christmas). Then, after giving our parents their gifts and making the vague pretence that this day was also about them, my sister and I would stand at the top of the stairs waiting for my Mum to confirm whether or not 'he had been' (seriously, this went on into my 20's). Downstairs, we'd drink tea and open our presents, taking turns between my sister and I, and confirming with my parents which order we should tear through our gifts. Every year my Mum would forget which present was which and would be almost excited as we were as we opened them. Later in the morning, Auntie Pat and our family friend Bob (you need not know who they are, just know them to be as lovely as their names suggest) would come round and Lindsay and I would look at each other with frustration as our present-opening was halted. However they'd stay only for half an hour or so - just enough time to shower us with even more gifts (well, a book token in Auntie Pat's case, always) and allow my Dad to make us all bacon sandwiches before round 2 of the present-opening commenced. We'd reconvene on the living room floor, dressed still in our pyjamas and dressing gowns even though it was nearly midday, and work our way through to the big present finale which included, over time, the Ghostbusters house and car, the WWF ring with different sound effects and numerous gaming systems. After the gift-giving came The Feed and, wearing my ubiquitous new sweater, I'd help welcome whichever guests we were having into our house that year while my parents busied themselves in the kitchen. Turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes and gravy would be joined by a token sprout on my plate and we'd all pull crackers and wear paper hats whilst telling stupid jokes at the table, my grandad groaning at every punchline. The feast over we would, in stereotypically English fashion, retire for naps in front of whichever dire movie was playing that day, waking mid-evening for a turkey and stuffing sandwich and a play with the new presents. Christmas was ace.
The last few Christmases have not been quite so special. Various factors including, but definitely not limited to, my own chemical experimentation and my parents' separation have found me dreading the season and feeling a certain amount of relief when the whole caper was over. Last year, my head clear for the first time in a long time, was quite an improvement as it was spent with my Mum and Kendra in Hong Kong. Turkey was eaten and gifts were exchanged, but I still felt very detached from the holiday itself and could just have easily of been celebrating a friend's birthday.
This year will be different.
Seoul started celebrating Christmas in mid-November. Shops draped themselves in the glitter and vulgarity that comes with commercial festivity and, despite a little grumble at how early everything was happening, I felt a long-buried excitement when I began to hear the Christmas carols for the first time. We've had snow already which certainly helps, as does working with children whose passion for Christmas will forever surpass those who have been dragged into adulthood. I spent last week with my 1st and 2nd graders making Christmas cards and listening to Christmas music and I couldn't keep the smile off my face. Kendra's self-imposed ban on Christmas has been lifted now her birthday has passed and we finally got round to watching our first Christmas movie together (it was National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, by the way. I'd never seen it before. It's brilliant.) In fact, right now, I'm listening to an album of Christmas songs which is very unusual for me. I'm excited for Christmas this year. Very, very excited.
We'll be spending the day in a Canadian pub near to us at a Christmas party they are hosting. The booze will be flowing and they are catering it with a turkey buffet so I'm hoping for a noisy, cheery and festive affair. Some old friends from my stint in Geoje last year are coming to join in and one of them, Jessica, is having her brother fly in from South Africa so there will be a family feel to the party. Also, a couple of days after Christmas, my Mum is flying into Seoul for the first time and Kendra and I are looking forward to showing her around the city and letting her get to know this crazy little country we've been living in for the last couple of years. Add that to the fact that we have tickets for Muse and The Killers concerts in January and February respectively and that we have just booked our flights to Malaysia and Thailand in late February and that on the Malaysia leg of that journey I will be meeting up with my oldest friend and all his family, many of whom I have never met before...well, this could be the happiest Christmas period I have had for a long, long time. Of course, you should never say never, but this will more than likely be my last Christmas in Asia and I am determined to make the most of it.
It has taken a minute for me to get to this point in my life and, I must say, it feels fucking fabulous.