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Column: Reindeers, Ribbon-Wrapped Presents, and the Red Cups
[ Issue 103 Page 6 ] Sunday, December 05, 2010, 17:49:43 Chaerim Oh chaerimoh@kaist.ac.kr

Ah yes, it’s that time of the year again. Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it is officially time to gear up for the end-of-year celebrations. Aside from reminiscing about the past eleven months, December is the month in which you hear the repetitive annual holiday music on the streets and see shiny plastic reindeers sitting outside department stores. If you are one of the lucky ones, you may even see some snow on your doorsteps.

As I was sitting in a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the highly anticipated annual red paper coffee cups have replaced the iconic and classic green-and-white ones. For many years that I lived abroad in America, the first day Starbucks released the Red Cups unofficially marked the arrival of the holiday season. Whether you were ready or not, on the day you saw someone sipping out of a Red Cup, it meant that it was time for a season’s celebration. Put on your Christmas socks; it was time for gift-shopping.

Like many others’, my end-of-year celebrations have always been inundated with ribbon-wrapped presents from friends; hearty, home-made food; hours of decorating my six-foot coniferous tree; and most importantly, family gatherings by the fireplace.

In Korea, however, it seems that Christmas has always been executed out at a much more minute level. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed last year at how quickly the Christmas spirit disappeared, along with the limited winter edition tumblers and the red-and-green wrapping papers that were never seen again. There are the ubiquitous white-bearded dancing Santa Claus and reindeer plush toys, but where are the optimism and the jolly spirit of purchasing slipper socks and plaid scarves for your next-door neighbors? Everything is so centered on the commercialization of Christmas products that the true holiday sensation is often easily forgotten. Christmas had disappeared as fast as it came and I never wanted to be a part of this superficiality again.

But as I was taking a sip of my warm Peppermint Mocha in the Red Cup, I finally felt a bit of the nostalgic Christmas spirit I had been looking for. It had hit me: Spending another Christmas in Korea may actually not be as bad as I thought it would be. Regardless of where we spend our holidays or whether the rooftops are decorated with festive lights or not, the end of the year is still coming and I might as well enjoy it. And just as 50 degree Christmases in California were never inferior to Korea’s just because they lacked snow, it’s not so much about the conditions we are given; it is what we make of it.

What truly puts us in the mood for baking cookies and snuggling in front of the fireplace is the small feeling of gratitude. The sparkly, singing greeting cards had never gotten me excited, but the words written inside the cards had still turned our stories red.

Who knew a cup of Christmas drink could enrich your soul? Perhaps a warm, chocolaty, caffeinated drink topped with whipped cream and red sprinkles in the Red Cup is all we really need to get by. Bundle up, and happy holidays.

Chaerim Oh Archives  
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